Friends with Boys
by Faith Erin Hicks
Review by Gayle Surrette
First Second Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596435568
Date: 28 February 2012 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
We all know just how bad high school can be for students who are different in dress, appearance, interest, or intelligence. Now imagine starting your first day of high school when your dad is the police chief and you've always been home schooled. Maggie McKay is excited and terrified about starting her first day in public school -- high school. It's not just going into a big building with lots of kids she doesn't know; it's that she's also haunted by a ghost. Having three brothers already in high school has got to help -- right?
Maggie arrives and makes friends almost immediately with another student, Lucy, and her older brother, Alistair. Everything seems to be working out. Maggie's map reading skills are really useful in finding her classes in the huge building. Having a new friend who is also trying to fit in helps a lot. In fact Lucy loves learning and has lots of knowledge about things Maggie doesn't know about, like naval history and music.
However, it turns out that Maggie also learns a number of things she didn't know about her brother, Daniel. He acts in the school plays and he's really good. He also doesn't like Alistair very much and warns Maggie to stay away from him or if she can't, be careful. She also learns which students to avoid because they're bullies to those who are different -- the entire volleyball team for example.
Maggie and Lucy become close enough that Maggie tells her about her ghost. Lucy is fascinated, but is willing to help Maggie come up with a way to put the ghost to rest so she can move on. There are plans and then there is what actually happens. Maggie and Lucy mean well and actually have what might be a workable plan. But when everything goes pear-shaped and they find themselves in deep trouble, they'll need to stand up for themselves and learn a lot about friendship, family, loyalty, and forgiveness.
The writing is clear and concise and really conveys the thoughts and feelings of these teens. The artwork adds to the story moving it along. One particular thing that I always look for in the art for a graphic novel is, can I tell who the character is just from the art or do I have to wait for a name tag somewhere and then compare the clothing. I had no trouble telling the characters apart -- except for the twins, and even they had slight differences.
This was a great story and would still have been a good one without the ghost, though the trouble that's caused by the plan to lay her to rest did drive most of the later plot. I'm sure that after the end of this book, Maggie and Lucy will continue to find mischief to get into while they grow into independent, strong, and confident women.