Monday, March 15, 2010

Foiled by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro.

I love Jane Yolen.  She’s one of the first fantasy writers I read as a little geekling.    So, when it was first announced that she was writing a graphic novel, I was excited, but cautious. 

I shouldn’t have worried.  Foiled is a great book.  In fact, it’s so great; I’m calling it one of the best books of 2010.

Our heroine is Aliera Carstairs.  Her passion is fencing, but her dedication to the sport sets her apart from other teens.  There aren’t many fencing cliques at your average public high school.   Her other hobby is role playing games, a pastime she shares with her wheel-chair bound cousin Caroline. Aliera navigates a narrow circuit of school, fencing practice and gaming, all of her equipment in tow, including the practice foil Aliera’s mom picked up at a tag sale.  It’s a good weapon, except for the cheesy red jewel on the hilt.  

Aliera’s narrow world is shaken with the arrival of Avery.  Avery is unlike any boy Aliera has ever met.  For one thing, Avery is beautiful and super charming.   He is also way, way, way into the dissection unit in biology.   Aleria knows something is off about Avery, but agrees to go out with him anyway.  It’s while waiting for him at Grand Central Station that she learns the truth about Avery and what the deal is with that red jewel.

What makes this book magical is how the typical teen tropes – outsider girl, beautiful boy with a secret, mystical foreboding – are used in fresh and unexpected ways.   I knew going in that there was something off about Avery, but I was surprised by the direction that it took.  What I liked most about Foiled is that it is Aleria’s story, unlike a lot teen books, where the girl who is supposed to be the main character is little more than a plot point for the more interesting mysterious boy.  Yolen does drop some hints about Aliera and her family that never really get picked up on, but I’m hoping that means there’s a sequel in the works. 

As much as I love Yolen’s writing, a big part of this book’s appeal is in Mike Cavallaro’s artwork. Clean and deceptively uncomplicated, it’s a perfect match for the story.   His characters are simply drawn, but expressive.  Aliera’s scowls and sardonic half-smiles tell you a lot about her personality without a word of dialogue.   Without being too spoiler-y, I can say that the coloring in this book is not only a major plot point,  but is beautiful in it’s own right. 

This is definitely a teen book, but adults and even tweens will enjoy Aleria’s adventures.  I’m recommending it to everyone I know, so go read it! 

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