Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second
Release Date: Feb 2012
Source: Publisher (NetGalley)
Maggie McKay is starting her first day of high school. Normally this fact would cause anyone stress, but for Maggie it’s even worse because up until now she has been homeschooled. With only minimum help from her three older brothers, Maggie slowly learns to navigate the halls of her high school, including finding the 9th grade bathrooms, the best lunch spots, and where people make out.
Of course, high school isn’t the only thing that Maggie has to deal with. Her mother has also left the family within the last year. A fact that Maggie blames herself for happening. She believes if she had been just more “girly” and done more things with her mother she would still be around. Throw in a ghost that has haunted her since she was a child and Maggie has more on her plate than most people. It’s no wonder she hesitant to all the changes that are rapidly happening. However, with some help from her new friends, Lucy and Alastair, and even her brothers she’ll realize that change isn’t so bad.
Friends with Boys is a great coming-of-age story. Maggie’s emotions were so raw and real that I could relate to her every step of the way. Although, Maggie isn’t the only one dealing with high school “stuff”. From the bully to those being bullied, Hicks shows how peer-pressure and popularity can affect anyone. I loved how she weaved in Alastair, Lucy, and Daniel’s story flawlessly. It never felt forced, but something that slowly came out as she learned about her new friends. I also loved than a year later, Alastair is still struggling with the guilt and remorse for the things he said and did. Yes, he has come a long way, but he still has miles to go.
While I’m on the subject of characters, I have to talk a little more about Lucy. Hands down she is my favorite character of the bunch. She got this quirky cuteness to her that makes me want to hug her to death or pinch her cheeks or maybe both. On the outside she blasts her uniqueness to everyone with her multiple piercings and funky hair, but it was her personality that won me over. From her excitement about ghosts, to her habit of sticking her foot in her mouth, and her love for her brother she easily took the slot as favorite character. Not to mention the way she waved and sat with Maggie so she wouldn’t be alone in a new school. This girl seriously has so much heart it isn’t even funny.
While I loved the majority of Friends with Boys, there are a couple of small issues I have with it. The big one is the ghost. There is so many questions surrounding her it’s not even funny. Why can Maggie see her? What does she want? Why does she follow her around? Will she ever go away? Not to mention how the graphic novel ends with the ghost looking pitifully sad and floating down a path. Does this mean she’s leaving? I’ve gone through it twice now and I still have no clue. My only hope is that Hicks plans to make this a series and that the answer will become clear in the next issues. However, if this is to be a stand-alone, the ending will bother me for some time.
The other thing that bothered me was really very small and I think it was more of a personal interest. I wanted to know why her mom left. Was it a separation? A divorce? Or did she just up and leave them? Is she still close where they can see her or talk to her? Or has there been no communication at all since she left? The flashbacks made her seem quite loving and I don’t know if I quite buy into the “she sacrificed so much she needed to do something for herself” excuse. Again, I’m really hoping this isn’t a stand-alone and that it’ll be addressed as the story progresses.
The last thing I want to touch on is the art. I really like Hicks style. It’s simplistic most of the time. She doesn’t overload it with meaningless detail that just clutter up panels. The way that emotions travel through the characters is just…wow. I could have ignored the words completely and gotten the jest of the story just through their expressions and movements. There are some panels, ones that deal mainly with setting, that have a lot of detail, but I really enjoy her simplistic style more. Without a doubt I will be keeping my eye on new creations as well as checking out old works by Hicks in the future.