One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: July 14th, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle School, Graphic Novel, Friendship, Bullying, Boarding School
I don’t understand. I don’t understand why some authors decide to include one fantasy element in an otherwise completely contemporary story. I understand magical realism. I think it can be very beautiful, surprising and, well, magical. But this was no magical realism story.
It’s about Juniper, a scholarship student who starts at a private all-girls’ boarding school. While she befriends her mousy roommate, Cassie, she makes enemies with Ellsmere’s IT bully. The two find ways of getting on each other’s nerves and hurting one another.
It’s pretty… typical. Not typical in the sense that this happens all the time in real life and that it’s not worthy of our attention. But there are lots of tropes. Even the ways in which Juniper and the bully choose to attack one another have been used/written about before.
There is no originality. The only original aspects come from the random fantasy element I mentioned thirty seconds ago and short bonding scenes shared between the two roommates. It’s cute, kind of, but that’s all. It absolutely does not hold a candle to the artist’s The Nameless City series.
At the same time, I did like Juniper and Cassie. Even though the story is 90% recycled, I enjoyed Juniper’s sarcasm and Cassie’s cuteness. The bully was so not necessary but I guess there would have been no story without her. It’s also a fast tale, with adorable illustrations. I’m tempted to give it two stars, because I’m 100% sure Faith Erin Hicks could have done better but I don’t feel like my time was wasted necessarily, so here’s three.
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