Friends With Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks opens with our heroine Maggie preparing for her first day of high school. This is her first time in the public schools as she has been home schooled by her mother. Her mother recently left the family leaving behind Maggie, Maggie’s police chief father, a set of high school-aged twins, and an older brother also in high-school.
The insular nature of Maggie’s homeschooling experience left her scared about facing the wider world. Her mother’s disappearance only intensified Maggie’s instinct to keep to herself. However, she finds new friends (Lucy and her older brother Alistair) with whom she explores the stigmas of homeschooling, sibling relationships, and self-confidence in the a high school setting.
Faith Erin Hicks does a great job pacing the graphic elements of the book. She uses framing, and multiple angles to move the reader forward quickly then pauses the action with two page spreads. Often these spreads build tension or give the reader sweeping views of scenery. Hicks has an eye for architecture, and renders these wide shot scenes with confidence.
First Second published the graphic novel us Anya’s Ghost in 2011 so I gave a little eye roll when a ghost showed up in the frames to haunt our FWB main character, Maggie. Maggie’s ghost is a 19th century widow of a ship captain. Both the captain and their two sons were lost at sea.
In both books the ghost is symbolic of a larger haunting. Anya strives for popularity, denying her immigrant past. She pushes aside her values and cares more about how she is perceived. When she finally embraces her true self she also looses her ghost. In FWB, Maggie and the ghost pine for their losses. Maggie for her run-away mother and the ghost for her husband and sons. Maggie looses her ghost when she and her brothers recommit to their family and Maggie embraces a life without her mother.
If you know a 7th-9th grade graphic novel enthusiast who liked Anya’s Ghost, and Skim, Friends With Boys– set in high school, and peppered with paranormal– is right for for them. Friends With Boys has a February 28th release date with First Second Publishers.