At the start of their Junior Year (at a stand in for New York’s LaGuardia Arts) four friends begin to drift apart as their priorities and personalities change. Told from the perspective of artistic Chloe, the comic is meant to be a visual and textual record of the year created by her after the fact. Her beautiful best friend MacKenzie is hell bent on popularity and will do everything in her power to make sure her current group of friends don’t mess that up for her. So when Chloe begins a friendship with handsome but geeky Adam, MacKenzie immediately puts “mean girl” pressure on her to break it off. As each of the girls try to seek their own path, the group pressures them in turn to stick to the status quo. Chloe feels the most pressure to conform and begins lying to and avoiding her friends.
I was attracted to this book by its art: heavy black lines, nice mix of boxes and larger illustrations escaping boxes. And while reading it, I was impressed by the wit of those drawings and how much they added to the story. And I was really impressed by how sophisticated the book’s portrayal of teenage, female friendship is. Chloe is the narrator (and “author”) and one can sympathize with why she does what she does, but she still shares in the blame for everything that goes wrong. There is romance, for all of the girls, but their friendship is the focus of the story.
One off note is that this is called “a Fashion High Graphic Novel.” Fashion High is what Chloe and her friends call her arty and fashion obsessed school, but it’s not a school that deals with fashion (there is one of those in New York) and it’s not the focus of the book. It seems only like a cynical marketing ploy. Though if it means there will be more, I’m happy.
I’ve had people tell me that they can’t tell if I actually like the books I’ve reviewed, and that’s probably because I’ve only moderately enjoyed most of them. And only disliked one or two. So I will explicitly state, I really really enjoyed this book. I think it’s a great readalike for fans of P.L.A.I.N. Janes and other Minx books. Two of the professional reviews that I’ve seen have put it as appropriate for 15 and up or grades 6-8. I would split the difference and say 12 and up. Some of these kids are having sex, and making out is pictured a few times, but I know a nine-year-old who claims to have enjoyed it.