Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 151

Friends With Boys

by Faith Erin Hicks
Genre notes: YA-palooza, highschool, the spookynatural
224 pages
ISBN: 1250068169 (Amazon)

Faith Erin Hicks parlays flavour from her own homeschooling experience into a young-adult vignette of a young woman’s first days in a public high school. Maggie is anxious, unhappy, and maybe even a little bit terrified as she has to adjust to an educational dynamic that is not governed by her now-absent mother. My wife was homeschooled and confesses to having nightmares as a youngster that she would—for reasons contrived only in the logic of dreamworlds—be forced to go to a public school. There was even a time in junior high when she was invited to a friend’s school for the day and she almost died of anxiety trying to concoct a scheme how to get out of the invitation. So Maggie’s misery over her new situation is apparently pretty believable.

And while Hicks obviously has her own thoughts about homeschooling, she doesn’t bang any drums in defense of or aggression toward the educational alternative. Hicks even has the opportunity when a new friend of Maggie’s (previously, her only real friends were her older brothers) remarks at how she’s not actually completely socially dilapidated. It’s a great opportunity for Hicks to spaz out and diatribe in whichever direction she leans, but instead the author plays the moment out quietly, amusingly, and with little fanfare. Maggie’s story reads, for its duration, as believable, human, and not really at all interested in making any kind of dogmatic personal statement—a valuable lesson in storytelling for those who’d rather make their points overt (and therefore trivial).

While Friends With Boys is about more than just a homeschooler trying to adjust to the “real world,” it’s the book’s exploration of a particular homeschooler’s life and distress that makes it such a winning story. Maggie is an endearing protagonist and her homeschooling-derived hesitations and insecurities are entirely understandable. When she makes friends, we as readers buy it. When she makes mistakes, we also buy it. She’s a whole person and even if she has quirks that we ourselves may not exhibit, they’re of an order familiar enough that any one of us very well might. We might even be surprised at how normal Maggie is for a homeschooler. /sly wink

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