Trespassers by Breena Bard, 256 pp, RL 4
Trespassers by Breena Bard
Purchased from Barnes & Noble
With her debut graphic novel for young readers, Bard delivers a welcome addition to the graphic novel shelves, creating a hybrid I hope to see more of. Trespassers is the perfect blend of the kid-friendly intrigue of a Nancy Drew mystery and the emotional realism of a Raina Telgemeier novel and just long enough that (most) readers won't tear through it in one sitting.
Headed to their family cabin by the lake for the week, eighth grader Gabby Woods is happy to to curl up in a corner with her stack of Agatha Christie mysteries, leaving the canoeing and card playing to her older sister and younger brother. Unfortunately, her well-meaning mother encourages (forces) Gabby and Simon to spend time with their new neighbors on the lake, Paige and her little brother Bryan. Paige is a straight-up nightmare, and Bryan is not much better. Bristly and sarcastic, she is immediately outed as a shoplifter by her littler brother, who is not above blackmailing her to get what he wants. Where Gabby and Simon clearly come from a connected, loving family, the Martin kids back talk and lie to their mother, who makes repeated empty threats while their father absents himself from parenting by deferring to his wife. As a parent, I wanted to reach into the panel and pull Gabby and Simon back from interacting with Paige and Bryan. But, Bard is a story teller who knows how to hook readers and I wanted to see how/if Gabby and Paige find a way to be friends.
Gabby's love of mysteries, and her attempt to write one of her own (which Bard marvelously includes in pale blue panels throughout the story) make for an initial, if fraught, connection with Paige. When Gabby lets Paige read the start of her story, Paige has some unkind comments that gradually morph into constructive criticism. The pair decide to work on the story together, conjecturing over the mystery surrounding a Frank Lloyd Wright-esque house down the lake that has sat empty for years. Fanning the flames of their fabricated story is Gabby's elderly neighbor, Gene, who knows the trues story behind the empty house. Paige pushes Gabby to get material for her story by breaking into the mystery mansion, Simon and Bryan trailing after them. As tension mounts, the pair begin to suspect the kindhearted Gene of playing a part in the mysteries of the empty lake house and their investigation intensifies.
Bard brings her story to an exciting, satisfying climax that resolves the questions surrounding the lake house and allows for understanding and connection between Gabby and Paige. Armed with creative inspiration, provided by Gene, Gabby leaves the lake at the end of vacation, ready to keep writing her story and happy to have a writing partner in Paige.
Normally, I let the illustrations show the diversity of the characters in a picture book or graphic novel, but I could only find the first pages of Trespassers, showing the Woods family, who present as white. Although their identity is never directly addressed and has no bearing on the plot, the Martins, parents of Paige and Bryan, appear to be a interracial couple.