It’s been a good while since I read a graphic novel, so I decided to pick one from my list and request it from the library. The lucky chosen was Faith Erin Hicks’ Friends with Boys, a YA story about a girl, Maggie, who is starting high school after having been home schooled her entire life. Can you think about anything more terrifying than starting a new school—a new high school—having never stepped foot in a school before?
Maggie has three older brothers who have taken the plunge before her, though, so she’s not totally alone; she has them for backup as she tries to make friends and navigate her new campus. It also becomes clear that Maggie’s mother has recently left the family—though we don’t have too many details on that. Oh, also, Maggie is haunted by a local ghost. All things that are totally manageable, right?
The art is humorous and lighthearted, creating a fun dynamic between the characters in their daily high school lives. It’s also a multi-faceted story—Maggie’s trying to fit into her new school, meet new friends, adjust to a new family dynamic, and solve the mystery of what happened to this ghost that’s been following her. Friends with Boys is an enjoyable, quick read about a girl trying to fit in and find her place in a new environment.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is an odd little book I picked up at a book sale because I adored the cover. It’s hefty for a children’s book—almost 500 pages. Once you get into the story, though, you realize it’s quick to read and the plot is a puzzling adventure.
Reynie Muldoon is the hero of this story. When we first meet him, he’s living in an orphanage and encouraged by his tutor to answer a newspaper ad aimed at gifted children looking for special opportunities. So Reynie embarks on a journey to a mysterious location to take a mysterious set of tests, questioning what exactly is behind all of this with a handful of other children in his same boat. As the details are revealed, Reynie and his new friends Sticky, Kate, and Constance realize they’ve been recruited for a very serious mission. Essentially, the future of the world is in their hands.
The fun thing about this book is that you, the reader, have the opportunity to solve the puzzles alongside the characters—and you realize that each of their individual strengths have power; they may reach the conclusion in different ways, but all their methods of thinking are valuable. I think that’s a fun approach to life, in general. While this is an adventure story, it’s not incredibly fast-paced; a reluctant reader may get antsy for some action. However, I think it’s good for more mature middle grade readers, and this is just the beginning—there are three other titles in the series!