Vi was supposed to enter Arden High with her twin brother, but then he decided to go off to boarding school. Now Vi is starting high school alone and she is not happy about it. Plus, at Arden High, humans like Vi attend alongside fairies, ghosts, and other magical creatures, so it’s disorienting, to say the least.
But it’s not all bad. Since she doesn’t have to wear a uniform, Vi can finally dress how she wants, in beanies and baggy clothes. She quickly makes friends with a group of quirky outsiders and even meets a cute poet-slash-influencer named Orsino. The only problem is, all of Vi’s new friends assume she’s not interested in guys. So even though she spends lots of time with Orsino, he only seems to think of her as a friend . . . and he wants her help to ask his crush, Olivia, to the Twelfth Grade Night dance. Which is extra awkward, because Olivia? Is into Vi.
Modern high school shenanigans (complete with mistaken identities on Instagram), supernatural creatures, tons of Shakespeare references, and a diverse cast combine in this sweet, spirited romantic comedy. Vi is struggling to figure things out while feeling abandoned by her twin, and it’s fun to watch her make friends and find a place for herself at Arden High. Meanwhile, the romantic misunderstandings and the antics of her new friends and the supporting cast—like the fairy royalty who semi-literally rule the school—make for a light-hearted romp with plenty of winks at anyone familiar with Shakespeare’s comedies.
Vi doesn’t quite know whether or not she likes girls, but she does like guys, regardless of the assumptions people might make based on her androgynous outfits. Olivia definitely likes girls, and plenty of people, male and female, are crushing on her. Vi’s twin is bisexual, as is one of her new friends. The nonchalance and playfulness around gender and orientation are refreshing and mesh well with the Shakespeare-inspired romantic mix-ups.
The art is colorful and active, with detailed and expressive characters taking the spotlight over the more minimal backgrounds. The lineart is relaxed, with a pencil-sketch look, but not rough or unfinished-looking. The colors vary with the scene and setting, and are often used to reinforce a mood (e.g. dappled greens and earth tones in the woods, stormy grays during a flashback to Vi’s father’s funeral, saturated pinks and purples at the Twelfth Grade Night dance). We also get plenty of manga-style sparkle effects, especially when someone interacts with their crush—which, given the plot of this book, happens a lot.
Despite the focus on romance, this book contains nothing steamier than a quick kiss. There is some deceit and pranking, but the pranksters end up feeling guilty and apologizing by the end. Vi is carrying sadness about being separated from her twin, and also about losing her father, but works through some of those feelings on the way to the sparkly happy ending.
This is an upbeat romp full of mischief and mix-ups but also friendship, family, and finding happiness. Hand it to fans of the Heartstopper series, books by ND Stevenson, and to any young reader looking for a sweet, inclusive rom-com.
Twelfth Grade Night, Vol. 1
By Molly Horton Booth, Stephanie Kate Strohm
Art by Jamie Green
Publisher Age Rating: 12-18
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Nonbinary, Chronic Illness