Friends with Boys

( 3 )


A coming-of-age tale with a spooky twist!

Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After an idyllic childhood of homeschooling with her mother and rough-housing with her older brothers, it?s time for Maggie to face the outside world, all on her own. But that means facing high school first. And it also means solving the mystery of the melancholy ghost who has silently followed Maggie throughout her entire life. Maybe it even means ...

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Friends with Boys

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A coming-of-age tale with a spooky twist!

Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After an idyllic childhood of homeschooling with her mother and rough-housing with her older brothers, it’s time for Maggie to face the outside world, all on her own. But that means facing high school first. And it also means solving the mystery of the melancholy ghost who has silently followed Maggie throughout her entire life. Maybe it even means making a new friend—one who isn’t one of her brothers.

Funny, surprising, and tender, Friends with Boys is a pitch perfect YA graphic novel full of spooky supernatural fun.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After being homeschooled her whole life, Maggie is starting high school at a public school and she’s understandably terrified. Anxiously she goes to school and eventually makes a few friends that others might consider weird because of how they look, but they turn out to be good comrades. In the midst of this easy-to-read slice-of-life action, Maggie is also being haunted by a female ghost who died about 200 years ago. Despite the addition of the ghost to the story, the graphic novel continues in realism mode, instead of shifting to a horror tale. And while the book starts out strongly, it leaves many things unanswered, like why Maggie’s mother left or what the ghost wants, leading to a somewhat abrupt ending. Maggie is a likable main character, however, and her anxiety about school is well portrayed, while Hicks’s black and white art is sharp and comically expressive. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
VOYA - Lisa Martincik
Maggie McKay is understandably anxious about her first day of high school; to date, she has been home-schooled, and her three older brothers comprise most of her social circle. With guidance from her eldest sibling, Daniel, she eases into crowded school life and even makes her first female friend, but the adjustment is complicated as she struggles also to come to grips with her mother's recent departure. In an act of desperation, she decides to help a ghost from the local cemetery, new friends in tow. Friends With Boys started as a daily web comic, still available online, but was designed to work as a book and is a pleasurable read in both formats. The art is easy to follow, lively, and engaging, with plenty of effective silent moments. For all the expected family and high school angst, the book is rife with humor. Maggie is a sympathetic and likeable character and carries the story capably; her family and friends are interesting but beg for even more development and could easily support an ongoing series. The story itself is nothing new as a growing-up tale, dealing with sibling rivalry, social circles, the faintest stirrings of romance, and self-searching (well, the ghost is an added twist), but Hicks handles it all with warmth and aplomb. Reviewer: Lisa Martincik
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
Making new friends has never been easy for Maggie, who has only really hung out with her brothers during the years she was home schooled by her mother. But when Maggie's mother unexpectedly leaves, Maggie finds herself attending a public high school full of strange teachers, cliques, and after school activities. It is pretty terrifying—yet despite it all, Maggie finds herself beginning to fit in when she makes friends with misfit siblings Lucy and Alistair. Unfortunately, it seems Maggie's brothers have a bad history with Alistair, one that they are not willing to share with their little sister. Oh, and there is one more thing—something that makes Maggie feel even more abnormal than your average teen. She is haunted by the ghost of a lonely widow. Hicks' cartoonish black-and-white artwork fits in well with her tale of adolescent angst (which, to Hicks' credit, never goes overboard into high school melodrama but feels very true-to-life). Unfortunately, the story's unusual gimmick of a ghost haunting a teenage girl remains just that—a gimmick. While there is some symbolic significance between Maggie's relationship with the ghost, her brothers, and her new friends, the ghost never becomes a major character in the story—nor does she need to, since Maggie's day-to-day life is interesting enough without the addition of a supernatural element. Fun for kids who can appreciate stories about teen angst that do not wallow in depression or self-loathing. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
ALAN Review - Brian Kelley
After years of home schooling, Maggie's mother abandons the family and leaves Maggie to navigate a local school system and its social structures. Having grown up in a house full of men, particularly three brothers with whom she always tried to fit in, Maggie regrets not interacting more with her mother and learning "girly things." Maggie establishes her own circle of friends when she befriends a vocal and colorful Lucy and her brother Alistair (on whom Maggie develops her first crush). As Maggie attempts to deal with a spirit haunting her since she was a child, she learns that no matter what one goes through in life, forming genuine bonds with those on whom we can rely and from whom we can seek comfort should be our priority. The black-and-white coloring adds a nice somber tone to resonate emotional power, capturing a textual tone that moves from comedic to serious. Reviewer: Brian Kelley
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—Maggie's secure homeschooled life with three older brothers, Daniel, Lloyd, and Zander, is ruptured when she must negotiate the rough waters of public school and a new family dynamic. She also happens to be haunted by a ghost, the widow of a sea captain, who is less terrifying to Maggie than the prospect of high school. She eventually becomes friends with siblings Alistair and Lucy. This friendship is complicated by Alistair's uneasy relationship with Daniel. The threesome visits the local museum and locates the sea captain's prosthetic hand. Maggie determines that returning it to his widow's ghost will put the apparition to rest. When her theft is discovered, Maggie's brothers come to her rescue, returning the missing artifact and exonerating the trio. Various panel sizes are used to full advantage, creating a cinematic effect that moves from long shots to tight close-ups. Night scenes provide good contrast and heighten the dramatic tension. Excellent pacing gives pause for reflective moments and sets up the action scenes. Hicks is a master of wordless panels, using facial expressions, gestures, and character placement to effectively convey emotions that transcend words. Her artistic brilliance is especially evidenced in the character's expressive faces, particularly the eyes. Note Lucy's face during the horror movie and the faces of the siblings when confronted by their father. Originally published as a web comic, this excellent high school drama has already developed an online following. Friends with Boys will win new fans for this talented cartoonist.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Nervous, homeschooled by her absent and much-missed mom and saddled with three adored older brothers--and a ghost--Maggie starts high school. Largely but not entirely left by her doting upper-grade sibs (who had "first days" of their own) to sink or swim, Maggie starts off in lonely isolation but quickly finds two great friends in Mohawk-wearing, multi-pierced, exuberantly logorrheic classmate Lucy and her quieter (but also Mohawk-topped) brother Alistair. Simmering complications soon reach a boil as Maggie discovers that Alistair and her own oldest brother Daniel have some sort of bad history and, on a more eldritch note, a woman's ghost that Maggie had always been able to see occasionally in the nearby graveyard takes to floating into her house and right up to her face. Filling monochrome ink-and-wash panels with wonderfully mobile faces, expressively posed bodies, wordless conversations in meaningful glances, funny banter and easy-to-read visual sequences ranging from hilarious to violent, Hicks crafts an upbeat, uncommonly engaging tale rich in humor, suspense and smart, complex characters. Readers will definitely want to have, know or be Maggie's brothers--but she herself proves to be no slouch when it comes to coping with change and taking on challenges. (Graphic fantasy. 11-13)
Pamela Paul
Hicks excels at depicting adolescent emotion and the way feelings ricochet off the actions and reactions of others, each teenager suffering a constant and confusing onslaught of hurt and acceptance, infatuation and rejection, loneliness and relief…She also shows flashes of clever humor…But what mostly emerges is a fundamentally sweet and sensitive story, one with a rare, genuine-feeling portrait of loving sibling relations.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596435568
  • Publisher: First Second
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 136,347
  • Age range: 12 - 16 Years
  • Lexile: GN390L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

FAITH ERIN HICKS is a writer and artist in Halifax, Canada. Her first two graphic novels, Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere, were published by SLG Publishing. Most recently, she illustrated First Second’s Brain Camp. Hicks has three brothers and was homeschooled until high school. She has never seen a ghost.




How much of Friends With Boys is inspired by your life?

I used my own life as a starting point for Friends With Boys. I have three brothers (although I am the oldest, not the youngest) and I was homeschooled until high school. However, I have never seen a ghost. I put a lot of the emotional chaos I felt going into high school for the first time into Friends With Boys. The main character's first day at school freak-out is very similar to what happened to me on my first day. I remember running away from the school and going to my local library and hiding there until my parents came to get me. It's funny, now that I think about it, being so scared of my peers. Everyone's scared in high school, and everyone thinks they're the only one. 

You grew up without a TV. Was that weird for you? 

It was pretty weird. I don't think it's such a big deal now, because now there is the internet, but when I was a kid, the internet was just text on a black screen and TV was the great cultural touchstone. Not having a TV meant no watching GI JOE or Transformers (I did manage to sneak in some My Little Pony, but the episodes I saw were few and far between), so I didn't have that immediate connection to kids my age. It's hard to play GI JOE or My Little Pony when you're not aware of the plotlines. I think TV is a pretty amazing storytelling medium, so I'm not anti-TV by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a huge cultural gap in my knowledge. I don't look back on childhood shows like Transformers and feel nostalgic towards them; I watch them as an adult and they look terribly animated and written and they aren't fun. The original My Little Pony, however, remains awesome. 

Who are your favourite creators and how do they influence your work? 

On this side of the globe, I really enjoy the work of Jeff Smith (Bone), Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Mike Mignola/John Arcudi/Guy Davis (BPRD), and Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole). Elsewhere, I love the work of Naoki Urasawa (Pluto), Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist) and Claire Wendling. 

It seems a disproportionally large number of cartoonist come from Canada. Is there something in the water up there?

Yes. At birth, all Canadian children are brought before the great Wheel of Canadian Destiny, to spin for our future. There are various specific Canadian careers on the Wheel of Destiny, such as cartoonist, comedian, animator, hockey player, hockey fan and Saturday Night Live producer. I don't actually remember this happening (I was a baby, after all), but I assume my Wheel of Canadian Destiny spin landed me on Cartoonist, and here I am. I'm pretty sure the Wheel of Canadian Destiny only has about six or seven options on it, which is why 1/6th of the country is cartoonists. A huge amount, for sure. 

Why did you start drawing comics?

I started making comics because it seemed like fun creative outlet, and putting them online was easy. I'd always been very attracted to the medium (I grew up reading Asterix and Tintin, like all good Canadian children), but there weren't many comics that I had access to that seemed to be made with me in mind. So I started making my own comics, the comics I wanted to read, even though I was absolutely terrible at them! I didn't even know how to draw when I first started making comics. And now here I am 12 years and 1800 comic pages later, making my living as a cartoonist ... it is something of a surprise. 

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Reading Group Guide

For Discussion:

Friends With Boys is a graphic novel, a story told in words and pictures. How do you

think this story would be told differently if it was a novel, with only words? How

would it be different if it was a movie, with just pictures?

Maggie goes to public school for the first time at the beginning of the book. What do

you think it would be like to go from homeschooling to public school?

Has a prosthetic hand ever solved anyone’s problems? Why or why not?

How do you think your family dynamics would be different if you acquired four older


Why do you think the ghost follows Maggie around all the time?

What did you think about Lucy and Alistair the first time you saw them? Did your

first impression change after Maggie got to know them better?

Maggie’s mom leaves before the book starts. Do you think Maggie’s behavior

changed after her mom left? How might she act differently if her mom was around?

Maggie’s twin older brothers have problems because people expect them to be the

same. Do you know any twins? List three ways they’re similar and three ways

they’re different.

Friends With Boys is a black and white book. How would it be different if it was told

in color?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 30, 2014

    Where has this book been all my life?!

    Where has this book been all my life?! Another win for GR and its suggestions! So, you have Maggie whose starting high school, has 3 brothers and a cop for a dad. Oh and she’s seeing ghosts, well a lady ghost. Not long till she makes friends with siblings Alistair and his awesome Mohawk and adorable Lucy. Can I just say I freaking adore those two. I freaking fell in love with this book. Its art style, the main characters, the awesome sibling love, just aww! Can I just say I freaking adore Alistair and Lucy. I couldn’t help but smile while reading this, especially I can somewhat relate to Maggie. I mean who wasn’t when they had to start high school? Anyway, this was a nice surprise. The art reminded me of Scott Pilgrim. Is it weird that I don’t know who Patti Smith is? Yeah I bet Lucy would find that weird. Lloyd, Zanders and Daniel are adorable and love their big brother relationship with Maggie. So sweet! And yeah shout out to Alien! That zombie play sounds fun by the way. It’s like this book was made for me. Which I noticed I don’t say often about books. Some but not a lot. Now I want to see what other works the author has done. And it seems there’s some questions, not a lot but some, that need answered. I want to say what but that would go to spoiler territory and we can’t have that. Tempting but no. So I’d say give this a read and you’ll get an idea on what I mean. Also, why haven’t you read this? No, really, this is a fun graphic novel. And Alistair is my new favorite book crush. Come on, dude rocks the Mohawk and you know it. I’m hoping there will be a sequel. There just has to be after an ending like that, how can there not be? Pretty please? I would love to read about these characters again. Nice break from all the characters with that are unlikable, all about the angst, drama this and drama that and the sibling hate. Thank you for that change of pace.

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  • Posted March 27, 2012

    I loved the book because of its wit and humor. It has drama and

    I loved the book because of its wit and humor. It has drama and yet it still seems realistic. The only problem is that the ghost is never really explained, but that's life, isn't it? No bad guy to come out of the shadows and explain his brilliant plot...
    Definitely read it! I engulfed this book in one sitting, but when you read it, don't rush. Instead, let Hicks' literary and artistic skills seep into your mind and lift your spirits. No pun intended.

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Charming Writing Prevails!

    Book Review by Chris for Book Sake
    The artist, who also happens to be the writer, has a very charming style. Her characters have expressive faces and all look unique. It is really easy to fall in love with Maggie right away.

    The story has a bunch of fun moments. Maggie, the main character, getting accustomed to high school is just plain fun and creative. The problem I had was that it just seems like a collection of events that don’t really build on each or lead up to a conclusion.

    In a way it reminded me of a Wes Anderson movie (Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic). A group of semi-dysfunctional people who have lives that aren’t perfect and they don’t really get a happy ending. In a way though, you realize that this was the happiest ending they could hope for. I guess you could call that a more realistic ending, real life doesn’t have a swelling orchestra as the hero defeats the villain.

    That being said, the ending did feel rather abrupt. Also the pitch of the story is ‘A coming-of-age tale with a spooky twist!’. The ghost element seems rather unneeded. At the end it isn’t explained. If anything, it tags on another element to the ghost story to make it more confusing.

    Book Rating: 4/5

    Book Review by Jessica for Book Sake
    I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book as much as Chris did, so before I read it I asked him if I should read it as well. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with graphic novels as I’m in it more for the story and often times I find graphic novels to be lacking in that department. This is a big exception to that thought. I freaking loved Friends with Boys.

    While I agree with Chris that this story didn’t need the paranormal aspect to make the story, it didn’t detract from how much I liked the book. The ghost portion isn’t a huge part, but it’s touched on a few times throughout the story, so it’s not like it’s mentioned once and then never thought of again. However there is really no reason for it to be in the story and it would have stood up well without it.

    What I did love about Friends with Boys was the fact that it had character development and a storyline that advanced forward smoothly. The main character Maggie is realistic and I felt for her being the new kid out of her element. Her family is entertaining and awesome even with their problems. The artwork was not only appropriate for the story, but was done very well and helped to show the storyline instead of hindering it. I was able to follow along with each frame – the artwork helping to lead my eye to the next frame easily. I finished this book in one sitting…instead of sleeping…and I love my sleep. This is definitely a graphic novel I’d recommend to those that have never read graphic novels and those that are avid readers.

    Book Rating: 5/5

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