Comic Solutions

Book Review–“Friends With Boys”

Friends With Boys
First Second
Faith Erin Hicks
February 2012

Maggie McKay is a bit lost at the moment.  See she’s entering high school for the first time.  Which would be bad enough, but Maggie has never been in a traditional school before.  She’s only been home schooled with her older brothers by their mother…who by the way has left the family for pastures unknown.  So now Maggie’s facing the real world for the first time, without her mom there for support, and to top it off her brothers seem to be busy with their own lives and forgetting about her!  And oh yeah, there’s a silent ghost that follows her around.  So Maggie has to face the real world for the first time, attempt to grow up a bit and find her own place in the world and in her family.  Along the way perhaps she’ll make a new friend (one who isn’t an older brother) and solve the mystery of the quiet ghost who has followed Maggie her entire life.

I’ve been following the webcomic release of this book for some time now and I’ve really enjoyed it so far, in part because the author’s commentary provides such great insight.  And…in some ways I really wish the book had the commentary because it describes so much of what the author is really thinking and it’s just nice to be able to read that part of the creative process.  Alas the book does not have this, but I’m still excited to have this review copy.  Faith accurately captures that feeling of confusion, of hopelessness when entering high school and does a fantastic job of making the characters feel real.  You can easily identify them as someone that you may have come across in your own school and identify with that sense of confusion, of loss, of discovering who you are.  It’s a good coming of age story and it’s nice to see how Maggie grows and changes during the pages of the book as she finds her place in the world at large.  And in her family.  And I love the other characters in the story, especially Lucy.  She’s so energetic, so confident in who she is and what she is that I love seeing her on the pages of the story.  What really stands out to me though is the fact that Maggie and Lucy are both strong female characters.  They’re completely grounded in reality so they have their faults, but they don’t ever fall into that “woe is me, I’m a girl and can’t do anything mode.”

I really like the artwork in the book.  Faith has a way of capturing the characters perfectly.  They have a lot of depth to their expressions so that even without the words of the story you can tell what’s going on.  I get lost looking at the expressions sometimes while reading, because it is just so pitch perfect.  Faith also has a way of capturing the feelings and movements of being in high school.  That sense of being crowded and all alone at the same time.  And that sense of relief at finding someplace to be yourself.  And I love the maps that Maggie draws to find her way around the school and identifying the places not to go, like the makeout corner.

It almost feels like maybe this is part of a series as there are a couple of questions left unanswered, such as where is Maggie’s mom and what’s the story with the ghosts?  Even if there are no sequels this is a good coming of age tell with strong female characters and I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

A review copy of this book was provided by Gina at FirstSecond

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