It’s not just Maggie’s first day of high school. It’s also her first day in a real school. Until now, Maggie has been home-schooled by her mom, but it’s time for her to join her three older brothers in the scary world of public schooling. But that’s not the only thing weighing on her mind — her mom just split, her dad’s the newly appointed town police chief, and, oh yeah, she’s being haunted by a ghost. As she tries to navigate these new circumstances, she befriends Alistair and Lucy, brother and sister, who help her have a little fun outside of her usual family bubble and inspire a plan to finally placate the ghost.
Faith Erin Hicks’ newest graphic novel is an entertaining and humorous high school tale that still has some emotional heft. Though it’s ostensibly about a ghost, at its core it’s really the story of Maggie and her family and how they deal with their mother’s abandonment. Maggie rocks as a protagonist, providing a strong female character whose story and personality will resonate with many readers. She’s not without her faults, but it’s her growth that gives the book its depth. Hicks has imbued all of the characters with such heart that you can’t help but falling in love with the whole lot, especially Maggie’s older brother Daniel. The interactions between the siblings rings true, adding both bits of levity and tenderness to the story. The other major players, Alistair and Lucy, are just as likable, adding another realistic and fun sibling relationship to the mix. The history and tension between Alistair and Daniel adds another layer to the web of relationships that Hicks has woven into this story, making the whole story fun to watch develop.
Besides the strong characters and plot depth, Hicks has also included plenty of laughs and fun moments for readers to enjoy. The ghost’s presence offers a bit of mystery and intrigue, with a payoff at the end that made this reviewer smile, even though it wasn’t entirely resolved. The movie outing to see Alien and the zombie musical starring Daniel were also highlights.
Hicks’ art rounds out the graphic novel, pushing it to the next level. With bold, black & white lines and detailed shading, she adeptly balances playfulness and emotion, bringing life to the characters she has created. The panels are nicely varied, keeping the eye moving along and maintaining the narrative flow. She is also able to convey a lot of the story through gorgeous wordless panels and full-page illustrations. With all of these elements, Hicks has truly made her mark as a graphic novelist to watch out for.
It’s also worth noting that the full graphic novel was serialized online in the months leading up to the release date, with Hicks providing commentary on the pages. Though the pages themselves are no longer available (save for the first 20 pages), the commentary is still up if you want to read along (page 1 starts here).
Friends with Boys
by Faith Erin Hicks
First Second, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: 12-16