Friday, June 1, 2012

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks


The defining moment of Faith Erin Hicks's Friends With Boys for me is the scene where Maggie takes her new friends Lucy and Alastair to the movie theater to watch Alien, which results in the punked-out and tough-looking Lucy quivering in fear and hiding from all the violent, bloody action taking place on screen whilst Maggie and Alastair watch with eager anticipation and bored indifference, respectively. It's one of the first stereotype-shifting moments in a book which is mostly about shifting the standard high-school stereotypes into different perspectives.


Friends With Boys is primarily about Maggie McKay and her first year of high school after being homeschooled for her entire life, an amplification of the usual social alienation that occurs in the transition from middle to high school. Despite the title, there's not really a great deal of ink spent on the actual act of being friends with boys; most of the boys Maggie knows are her brothers, who are her friends/enemies by default, and her most important new friend at high school is Lucy. It is instead snips and pieces of the events that tend to populate high school life: unexpected rivalries between former friends, late-night potentially illicit events, and the general crises of identity. It's hard to even assign Maggie the coveted status of "main character" as she seems to serve more as a viewpoint anchor for the reader into the events that develop around her. This isn't to say that she's a static or cipher character—she changes as much as the rest of the main cast over the course of the book, if not more so—but rather that's she's less of a central figure.

The nature of this format prevents it from having the usual Literary Signposts that say things like "This is the Theme of This Work, Pay Attention" or dialogue that reads like "In Case You Missed That Signpost Previously, We're Explaining the Theme Now", and it's better for it. Without those signposts , it's much easier for readers to pick their own theme and their own way of integrating the narrative with their lives—it's just as easy to click with Alastair's struggles to dissociate himself from his former lacrosse teammates or Lucy's desire to maintain her individuality as it is with Maggie's alienation from the majority of the high school student body. Even the parts of the story that would best serve to make a coveted Point—the ghost of the sailor's widow that haunts Maggie and her friends and their attempt to set her at peace—ends with an ambiguous nonconclusion.

The nonconclusive ambiguity could be the Point itself, perhaps, but by its very nature means that rather than being a singular Point, it's simply one of many points that one could draw from Friends With Boys.


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