Great Illustrated Books

Friends with Boys

By Faith Erin Hicks

First Second Books / Roaring Brook / Macmillan, 2012
Pages : 224
Suggested Ages: 12 and Up
ISBN: 1596435569

A girl haunted by her mother’s abandonment and saddled with a ghost must navigate her first days of high school. In this moody, atmospheric graphic novel, she gets unexpected help putting her anxieties to rest.

Maggie won’t admit that she is nervous about attending high school for the first time especially after her older brothers take the tough love approach: sink or swim. Her face, in a series of comical close-ups, reveals her anxiety as well as a hint of sadness. A glimpse of a family photo provides a clue to happier times when Maggie’s mother was still in the picture, homeschooling her. Maggie is haunted by her mother’s departure. In parallel, the ghost who is hovering around Maggie has lost something, too. She's the widow of a sea captain, and she won’t leave Maggie in peace.

At school, it is understated but significant that Maggie becomes friends with two outcasts, sister and brother Lucy and Alistair. The banter among the misfits comes easily, and it's a great testament to their budding friendship that Maggie tells them about the ghost. One night, they help her “borrow” the prosthetic hand of the sea captain from a museum in an effort to appease the ghost. But during their escapade, they have a run-in with a popular group of athletes. Although most scenes are suffused with humor, with this encounter, the mood changes to violent. Tensions and rivalries that have been simmering beneath the surface come to a head. Maggie’s brothers rally behind her to put things to right. In the process, secrets are shared and issues brought into the light.

The emotional intensity, handled with an easy touch, will resonate with raw teens everywhere. Although readers never learn why Maggie’s mother left, they are certain that Maggie’s bond with her brothers and friendship with Lucy and Alistair will help her move forward. As if in response to this, the ghost trails off. Maggie’s realizations are perfectly paced, and the art captures them in wordless panels so readers can absorb her responses and growth. The characters’ faces are incredibly expressive as is the body language. And the black-and-white palette perfectly suits the moody, atmospheric story. Sure to strike a nerve for all those in the sweet, spooky throes of adolescence.

Extras: Check out the webcomic edition with author comments and lots more:

Reviewed by : JMcD


If you love this book, then try:

Beaton, Kate. Hark! A Vargrant! Drawn and Quarterly, 2011. ISBN-13: 978-1770460607

Brosgul, Vera. Anya's Ghost. First Second, 2011. ISBN-13: 978-1596435520

Hicks, Faith Erin. The War at Ellsmere. SLG Publishing, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-1593621407

Hicks, Faith Erin. Zombies Calling. SLG Publishing, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-1593620790

Kelly, Joe. I Kill Giants. Image Comics, 2009. ISBN-13: 978-1607060925

Kim, Susan, Laurence Klavan. Brain Camp. First Second, 2010. ISBN-13: 9781596433663

O'Malley, Bryan Lee. Lost At Sea. Oni Press, 2005. ISBN-13: 978-1932664164

O'Malley, Bryan Lee. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, Volume 1. Oni Press, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-1932664089

Tsugano, Gaku. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Volume 1. Yen Press, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0759529441

Critics have said

After being homeschooled her whole life, Maggie is starting high school at a public school and she��s understandably terrified. Anxiously she goes to school and eventually makes a few friends that others might consider weird because of how they look, but they turn out to be good comrades. In the midst of this easy-to-read slice-of-life action, Maggie is also being haunted by a female ghost who died about 200 years ago. Despite the addition of the ghost to the story, the graphic novel continues in realism mode, instead of shifting to a horror tale. And while the book starts out strongly, it leaves many things unanswered, like why Maggie��s mother left or what the ghost wants, leading to a somewhat abrupt ending. Maggie is a likable main character, however, and her anxiety about school is well portrayed, while Hicks��s black and white art is sharp and comically expressive.

Hicks excels at depicting adolescent emotion and the way feelings ricochet off the actions and reactions of others, each teenager suffering a constant and confusing onslaught of hurt and acceptance, infatuation and rejection, loneliness and relief. Her black-and-white panels, often wordless, are better at conveying these fleeting but deeply felt states than they are at depicting action, which is sometimes lost in the shuffle. She also shows flashes of clever humor, as when she labels an image of two brothers embracing ���Manly Hug.��
New York Times

Filling monochrome ink-and-wash panels with wonderfully mobile faces, expressively posed bodies, wordless conversations in meaningful glances, funny banter and easy-to-read visual sequences ranging from hilarious to violent, Hicks crafts an upbeat, uncommonly engaging tale rich in humor, suspense and smart, complex characters.
Kirkus Reviews