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Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Cover to Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Friends With Boys is a teenage slice-of-life story. Maggie is dealing with the first day of school. Not just the first day of the year, nor is it simply her first day of high school. This is Maggie's first day of school...ever. 

Once homeschooled, the freshman girl's mother (and teacher) has left home. Luckily, Maggie has three already initiated older brothers to show her the ropes around Sandford High. But Maggie's going to have to get used to the crowds, the schedule, and the fact that her siblings can't always be looking out for her.

One detail that I loved was a school map that Maggie scribbles notes on. Wise reminders like "Makeout Stairwell: AVOID!!" begin to fill up every margin of the school's layout. This technique helps to convey the passage of time and Maggie's gradual fitting in. Eventually, she finds some like-minded peers and starts to blossom.

Like when Maggie takes some of her new friends to see the movie, Alien. Maggie's enthusiasm for the gritty sci-fi horror masterpiece is not just because of the scares, but rather the fact that the main character is a strong woman whose independence ensures her survival. Manga author Hicks, like her character Maggie, had three brothers and was homeschooled until high school, so it's no surprise to find that she also adores Alien. A recent one-page comic by Hicks summed up the genius of the film with great wit and insight. 

The book is also a slice of death. An unhappy ghost has haunted her since childhood and pops up periodically, looking for someone to give her peace. This aspect of the story weaves in and out of Maggie's first year. But the real meat of the story is Maggie's relationship with her brothers and the new friends she makes. Fans who enjoy the paranormal aspects of the storyline might want to seek out Anya's Ghost, another comic which deals with many of the same themes of teenage anxiety as this one.

The book's greatest strength is the artwork. I find Hicks' drawing style to be easily approachable while still beautifully detailed. It has an eastern manga influence while remaining firmly grounded in Western culture and setting. I strongly suggest visiting her Web site to see other examples of her fantastic style.