By Faith Erin Hicks
Available now from First Second (Macmillan)
Read a 20-page preview
Maggie McKay was homeschooled her entire life, but now it's her first day of high school. Her dad's just become the police chief, her mother has run off, and her three older brothers have their own lives. The oldest, Daniel, is particularly busy with the school play. She makes a couple of friends, but the woman haunting her has been becoming more actively lately and it's bothering Maggie.
Faith Erin Hicks' newest graphic novel, originally serialized online, is terrific. The paranormal touches don't overwhelm the story, so I think readers who pick this title up thinking it's a straightforward contemporary won't be too put off. The contemporary story really is the heart of this title. In addition to dealing with her changing relationship to her family, Maggie wants to figure out what's up with her new friend Alistair. He's got some sort of feud going on with the head jock and Maggie is curious about what's up with that.
Hicks' art is extremely appealing. Her characters have very expressive faces and their designs are easy to tell apart even in an entirely black and white book. Although her style is very different, the way Hicks draws action reminds me of her fellow Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley. (I like Scott Pilgrim, so I consider this a good thing.) (Also, what do they put in the water in Canada that produces so many great cartoonists?) I finished FRIENDS WITH BOYS wanting to read more of Hicks' work. Yay for backlists!
As a bonus, I think the style of FRIENDS WITH BOYS will appeal to fans of American and Japanese comics. And don't let the title fool you - there is a female friendship at the heart of the story. FRIENDS WITH BOYS is very girl friendly. It's a terrific title and I almost wish it were the start of a series instead of a standalone. I say "almost" because there is joy in titles that know how to tell a story and let it end.