Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks is just another outsider trying to make it in high school story. Maggie and her three older brothers were all homeschooled by their mother who, like so many mothers in children's lit/YA, is gone, gone, gone. Each one of them had to transition to public school at ninth grade. Now it's Maggie's turn. Her brothers are quite marvelous, though not particularly attentive, and Maggie is left to experience not just the terrors of high school on her own, but the whole separation from family that most kids do somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5.
Yes, the homeschooling thing is the only unusual element here in the basic story. Nonetheless, Friends With Boys is very well done. Partly this is because those older brothers, while not particularly helpful at first, have made their way through an assortment of adolescent problems and are still standing, so there is every reason for us to trust Maggie to do the same. And partly this is because Friends With Boys is a graphic novel and a really good one.
I am able to whip through what I consider to be a well-done graphic novel, one that uses image to communicate setting and action. Hicks does even more here. Her wonderful artwork conveys character. When Maggie's older brothers appear, our understanding of them is almost instantaneous. There are no what I call "narrative boxes" in these frames--spots where the graphic novelist has had to tell us some info in words. Absolutely everything here is in dialogue and images. You can just suck this story in, absorb it. Be one with the story.
Okay, I will admit I don't totally get the ghost. But for you people who like that sort of thing, hey, there's a ghost.
Friends With Boys is a Cybils nominee in the Teen Graphic Novels category.