Book Title: Friends with Boys
Author: Faith Erin Hicks
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: YA
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Page Count: 224
Format: Paperback (library)
Reading time: 45 minutes
Date Finished: 1/29/17
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My impressions: Friends with Boys is a pleasant graphic novel about a girl in Canada who has to enter into high school after a lifetime of being homeschooled. Maggie McKay doesn’t really fit in with the high school crowd, but she’s got three older brothers to help her navigate. Maggie eventually finds friends in a brother and sister who are equally outcasts, and she finds herself at the center a few mysteries – why her older brother dislikes the outcast Alistair, why Alistair and a popular boy named Matt are constantly staring daggers at each other, and why she is being followed around by a ghost that only she (believes she) can see.
The story was originally told as a webcomic, and it’s been formatted into a manga-style graphic novel. The title suggests this is a story about teenaged angst and dating, but in truth, it’s a story about finding your place in the world. The artwork is high in quality and shows some very strong black and white lines and extremely expressive characters. I loved how dynamic the action could be, and the zombie-themed play featured midway through the book is entertaining.
The characters are interesting and memorable, and the story’s like a combination of Raina Telgemeier’s Drama and Ghosts, though it was written before either of those were published. I liked how the story made use of popular culture touchpoints – the film Alien, a cleverly-placed Ghostbusters logo, Maggie’s Princess Leia-lite hairdo, and so forth – without becoming dated. The story and setting take place in an old place rich with history, and it wisely avoids having the characters interact with modern technology any more than is required.
There are a lot of themes in this graphic novel – abandonment, isolation, coming of age and accepting one’s identity being chief among them. Most are expressed quite strongly by the mysterious ghostly widow, whose unfinished business seems to be that she’s never quite mastered any of these themes and is destined to haunt the harbor as a result of it. And I like that the story isn’t about trying to help the ghost so much as it’s about having the ghost (and her backstory) serve as a tool to explore the characters. While this story would have definitely benefited from another volume with more time spent on bringing the characters (particularly the twin brothers) to life, I enjoyed what was there, and if its worst sin is that it left me wanting more, that’s a good problem indeed for author Faith Erin Hicks, whose other work I’ll have to check out!