Graphic Novel Review – Friends with Boys
Faith Erin Hicks is the artist and author of Friends with Boys, a graphic novel that began as a webcomic series. First Second licensed the story to be released this way, but when it was done, the series was collected, bound and published by First Second in 2012. The webcomic has since been removed.
Maggie McKay has been homeschooled by her mother her entire life and is starting public high school when the novel opens. She has been raised with three older brothers and is very fond of her father, but her mother, a self-sacrificing sort who taught all of the children while they were being homeschooled, has left the family, and her return has not been set. Maggie doesn’t take well to the huge crowd of people at public school, but does find her people in two punk kid siblings. These three hang out and learn about ghosts, which comes in handy, considering that Maggie is haunted by a silent ghostly woman, and these episodes have been turning up in frequency.
Faith Erin Hicks is an absolute workhorse and illustrates even the most mundane details of these character’s interactions with a great deal of background detail and extra touches. While the novel itself is short on substance in the narrative category, Hicks clearly put a lot of thought into the illustration. Certain characters, such as two of Maggie’s brothers who are twins, and her father, aren’t really explored in the story, but they do stand out visually and make the novel more characteristic through their presence.
This young adult novel has two of the usual themes for the genre, coming of age and choosing between conformity and authenticity. More time is spent on the characters talking, having a good time, and sometimes spitefully staring at rivals. The ghost story does resolve, but it is done in a subtler way than I was guessing it would be, as I was expecting something more similar to Anya’s Ghost, Seconds or Mercury from that set up. Another element of the story, which is referenced in the book’s title, is Maggie’s preference for traditionally masculine activities, friends and attitudes. The cultural negativity directed at activities deemed traditionally feminine is felt, and for a very short time looks to be the central point of the story, but ultimately, it is not examined thoroughly.
While I wasn’t blown away by the story of the novel, it did inform me of Faith Erin Hick’s work ethic and extensive body of work. I will be ordering something else that she’s worked on as soon as get done with my pile of Christmas gift books.