Let me go on record stating that Faith Erin Hicks is one of my favorite cartoonists. Her Adventures of Superhero Girl should be nominated for and given every webcomic award. I am thinking of inventing an STR Webcomic Award just so I can give it to her. In fact, if Ms. Hicks is ever present at a convention I attend, I will personally hand her the aforementioned hypothetical Award.
But that’s not what I came here to talk about.
I came here to talk about Faith Erin Hicks’ most recent published work, Friends With Boys.
Maggie McKay has led a pretty sheltered life. She has been home-schooled her whole life, and has never had any friends outside of her thee older brothers. She lives in a small town along the coast that only appears to be busy during tourist season. Unfortunately Maggie’s life is about to change. It is time for her to go to high school. Public high school. And her brothers are all caught up in their own lives, so she is forced to make new friends.
Not a bad setup for a Young Adult book. because, even though I am pretty sure that most of us have not been haunted by an actual ghost, there have been more than a few situations where the metaphorical ghosts of our past have loomed over us.
That is the role that this ghost serves. She is everything that Maggie is forced to overcome as she transitions to her new life. The home-schooling. The lack of friends and knowledge of social norms. The fact that her father is the town police chief. The fact that her parents recently divorced. All of this looms like a spectre over her. Except, in Maggie’s case, there is a real spectre there too!
The writing and story are well-paced and feel real. Like the best of the Minx line of books, Friends With Boys is written for a young adult audience with it being accessible to both the young and the adult. The story has a universal quality that transcends the high school experience and is as relevant today in my adult life as it would have been *cough cough* years ago when I was entering high school.
In addition, Maggie is a protagonist that both girls and boys (sorry, young ladies and men) can associate with. Nothing in this story brought me out or put me off. I was hooked within the first page. What I said above about this being a universal story applies to gender as well. All of us (male and female) have felt like outsiders, been uncertain, or done some thing s we are not proud of. Maggie is all of us!
The true star of the story is the art. Hicks can express more with eyes of her characters than most artists are able to accomplish in panels of dialogue and action. Her characters are fluid and real, despite the cartoonish-ness of her art style. All of the people in the boks express themselves with their entire bodies, creating art that is dynamic and interesting, even when there is no more action than waiting in line to see a movie.
Friends With Boys is my out-of-the-gate leader for best YA book of the year. I expect to see it on several top-ten lists. Ask for it by name from your retailer!