Sometimes you just need to read a graphic novel. They have a superpower; by combining art and words, even the simplest of stories can become powerful and endearing.
This is the case with Faith Erin Hicks’ breakout graphic novel, Friends With Boys. While Hicks has been publishing online comics since 1999, this is the first to be immortalized in print. The novel follows our heroine, Maggie, as she transitions into her first year of High school after having been homeschooled with her three older brothers her entire life.
The strong point of this book is that it focuses on the relationships between all of the characters. While it may be short on plot, the interactions between all of the groups of siblings make the read more than worthwhile. An unexpectedly intriguing subplot involves two twin brothers who are straining to identify themselves as separate entities and still remain close.
The weak point is Hicks’ attempt to involve the supernatural. In addition to joining high school, making new friends, and dealing with her mother’s recent abandonment, Maggie is haunted by a ghost from the 1800s. While the ghost-busting does add a good plotline to an otherwise simple book, the relevance of the ghost is never really explained, making it unsatisfactory.
The title Friends with Boys is a little cliche and misleading. It refers to Maggie’s friendships with her brothers, as well as with the brother of her new best friend, Lucy. Maggie admits that she’s never had a female friend before Lucy, and that because of her brothers she’s always only been friends with boys. This causes an on-going guilt that her lack of femininity is what caused her mother to leave home.
The charms of this book far outweigh the cliches. The characters are interesting and unique, and their interactions are refreshingly loving. Friend with Boys explores the relationships between family members, the effects of our actions on other people, and how we can choose to change ourselves.
Not to mention, the character designs are awesome. Rarely do you see art that captures the truly unique array of the different styles of realistic high schoolers. Since it only takes about 45 minutes to read- you can do it in one sitting in the Manual Library without much problem- this book is highly recommended.