I so thoroughly enjoyed the graphic novel "Friends With Boys" (particularly Hicks' illustrations) that I immediately hopped on my library website to mine it's shelves for anything else Hicks had published. And I came up with "The War at Ellsmere". I needed a little break from the bizarro world of Murakami, and this was the perfect thing. It took about an hour to read.
So who likes boarding schools? For some reason, we literary folk seem to be drawn to them. Is it because we were raised on "A Separate Peace"? Or we fell under the spell of Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go"? Or is it just the creepiness of it? Who knows. But Hicks takes full advantage of all that the setting has to offer here.
Synopsis: Juniper is a tough 13 year-old who has received an academic scholarship to attend prestigious Ellsmere Academy after attending (and loathing) public school. She has high expectations.
Only as anyone might guess, it isn't all it is cracked up to be. Although the Academy excels in its curriculum standards, the entire school knows that Juniper is there on scholarship, automatically setting her apart from the other girls, who are wealthy. Her roommate seems to be a bit strange, and Juniper makes an immediate enemy in one of the mean girls. Juniper takes her full-on.
Oh and there is a legend of something scary and mysterious in the nearby forest.
For anyone who has fought for their identity and their place in high school as the new girl, who has sought friendship, and battled the bullies, this story is sure to ring a few bells.
My thoughts: Hicks seems to have a solid grasp on the essence of being a teenage girl and the struggle to fit in. We saw this in "Friends With Boys" and we see it here. Her characters are surprisingly developed in few words due to her expressive illustrations. I have found that reading her books are really easy on the brain and are comforting, despite any conflict in them. Juniper and her roommate are admirable but make mistakes, are a little quirky but dear.
As with "Friends With Boys", she threw in a random shot of supernatural, creating something mysterious in the Ellsmere forest. These injections feel haphazard, but since this is the second time I've seen it, perhaps it is her little trademark. I don't really mind it.
I'd recommend Hicks to anyone who enjoys a light graphic novel and remembers what it is like to be a teenager. I sincerely look forward to more of her work!
4 out of 5 stars