If you’ve been to high school, you know Francine Peters and Katina Choovanski. You might even have been one of them: the girl whose toga fell down during the school play or the girl who put a cherry bomb in her boyfriend’s locker. Francine and Katchoo (as she’s known) come from completely different places (as illustrated in High School‘s hilarious opening sequence), but they’re not as different as they might seem. They’re both looking for understanding in the often-cutthroat world of high school relationships, and they’re both dealing with trouble at home–Francine’s “happy” family hides tension below the surface, while Katchoo’s home is an out-and-out nightmare. Just as the two girls begin to find comfort in their friendship, Katchoo runs away from the abusive stepfather who makes her life a living hell. Strangers in Paradise: High School is actually the sixth volume of Terry Moore’s traumarama Strangers in Paradise, but it functions as a prequel and can (mostly) stand alone as a painfully true and funny story of living through your teens. I love Terry Moore’s drawing style; his characters really live and breathe, and you can’t help but love the young Francine and Katchoo. His dialogue is equally sparkling. Though the rest of Strangers in Paradise can be unbearably angst-filled (and is definitely adult), High School is a perfect mixture of humor and heartbreak. The volume also contains a hilarious bonus story, in which Francine, Katchoo, and their friend David find themselves in an episode of Xena, Warrior Princess. It’s priceless.
Librarians who already collect Strangers in Paradise will probably want to keep the series together in the adult section, despite the undeniable teen appeal of High School. Those who don’t might consider this volume for their young adult collections. I read it before the other volumes in the series and enjoyed it on its own, but readers who don’t know about the later history of Katchoo and Francine may wonder what it’s all about. For those who want to read more, however, Strangers in Paradise: High School is a good introduction to the characters.
Strangers in Paradise, vol. 6: High School
by Terry Moore
Abstract Studio 1998