Review originally posted on my Livejournal
.Why I Read It:
Once upon a time, I was obsessed with graphic novels. In 2009, I read almost exclusively graphic novels and was one of those people who went out to my local comic book store every Wednesday and bought about a dozen issues of various titles. But then I got a long-distance boyfriend and suddenly I was buying $110 round-trip tickets to go see him every couple of weeks and I only work part-time so I had to start cutting some of my "recreational spending out". I decided to drop graphic novels and weekly issues. They're not cheap. I initially didn't drop them completely, but I slowly weaned myself off of them. Anyway, all of this is to say that I've been hankering for graphic novels lately. I don't read just super-hero stuff though -- I read pretty much anything. This was a new release and it looked super cute, so I picked it up and read it during my breaks at work.
If I had to describe Faith Hicks' Friends With Boys
in one word, it would be ADORABLE. That's kind of odd to say about a book that deals with adjusting to high school and ghosts.. but there you have it.
The story follow our protag Maggie who is starting high school after being home-schooled all her life. She has three older brothers who also stopped being home-schooled once high school started, so she's not completely stranded, but watching Maggie adjust to such a completely different environment (and HIGH SCHOOL of all places, ugh) is something I'm sure almost all of can relate to. I liked especially how she made a map of the school and marks off areas like the "Make-Out Stairwell", along with where her classes take place.
The story is pretty straight-forward: Maggie is adjusting to her new school, deals with having to learn how to fit in for the first time in her life, and learns how to make friends with people who aren't her brothers. There's also a side-plot concerning a ghost that's been following Maggie around for most of her life, and how Maggie tries to help the ghost move on so she can stop haunting her and stuff.
What I liked about the plot was that it didn't tread extremely familiar territory: instead of reading a story about Maggie being made fun of and ostracized for being home-schooled, the readers are instead privy to her insight as an observer: Maggies pays close attention to the relationships around her, most notably the relationships between Alistair and his ex-bff Matthew, and Alistair and her oldest brother Daniel. Watching THOSE relationships does tread familiar territory, but in a fresh and engaging way. It's also worth mentioning that there aren't any Mean Girls in sight in this book; instead, the popular crowd is a pack of rowdy volley-ball playing jocks, led by Head Douchecanoe Matthew. Boys can be popular bitches too!!
The supernatural plot thread is never really explained or developed, though it does incite some of the action of the plot. It oddly didn't feel out of place though. It kind of gave the story some panache or something. I dunno if there was an additional deeper meaning to it, but I didn't perceive any (though I wouldn't be surprised if there actually was some metaphor for that whole thing as well.) Either way, I liked it.
Sometimes Maggie skirts the edge of being a Speshul Snowflake; having grown up with boys her whole life (she has three older brothers) she talks about how she doesn't like girlie things and she thinks that bugged her mom (who is absent in this book because she left the family.) I say she only skirts the edge because she never talks about how she's so much BETTER than other girls because she doesn't have girly interests, but she does talk about how she's "not like other girls". HOWEVER, she becomes super tight with Lucy so this book definitely passes the Bechdel test. It's just something I noticed.
The art was mostly good for me. I sometimes found Maggie looked kind of funny (like here
; there's something about Maggie's upper-lip that bugged the crap out of me, and it appeared a lot in the book) but she was the only character who I felt that way about. Everyone else was looked AWESOME, and Hicks's style lends for very expressive facial expressions which I loved. The super cartoon-y style lent itself to the story really well.Final Verdict:
This was a super cute and super fun graphic novel romp. The story treads familiar territory but does so in a new way without feeling trope-y and boring. It's got a pinch of the supernatural that gives it a bit of panache without feeling tacked on. The main character was definitely easy to relate to and largely likable, but she did skirt the edge of the "Speshul Snowflake Syndrome", but thankfully mostly avoids it. The art style was a little hit-and-miss with the main character, but I thought the rest of the cast looked fantastic and I really liked Hicks's style; it really jived with the rest of the novel and I loved how cartoon-y and expressive it was. I definitely plan on seeking out more of Hicks's work.