Twins by Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright, 256 pp, RL 4
Review copy from Graphix
While Johnson and Wright's stellar graphic novel (the first in a series!) is a sibling story about identical twins, it's truly a universal story about learning who you are and how you connect with the people around you. And, Twins is notable in that it joins a small, but hopefully growing list of real-life graphic novels with Black protagonists.
From the first pages where we meet Maureen and Francine Carter, it's clear that they are two very different people, no matter how similar they look. In fact, their father says that Francine is the talker and Maureen, the narrator, is the thinker. As Maureen navigates a new and uncertain world, from classes - even lunch period - without her sister, to an unexpected spot in Cadet Corps, she realizes that she doesn't have Francine to lean on anymore. This is especially true as it gradually becomes clear that Francine doesn't want to be leaned on. Fran, as she now wants to be called, has gone out of her way to make sure that she gets noticed for being more than one of the Carter twins. Fran embraces every new opportunity, from joining clubs to running for class president, while Maureen hides out in the library during lunch and struggles with her first ever B. As the girls' relationship hits rocky patches, the adults in the story (father, mother, adult half-brother, teachers and friend's parents) are present, giving support and structure to the tweens while also giving them room to make the right, and sometimes wrong, choices and take responsibility for their actions.
Johnson and Wright have created a story that is rich with details, in both text and illustrations, that brings something new to this growing genre of realistic fiction graphic novels. The protagonists of Twins don't have friend problems or family problems or physical or emotional health challenges. As Black protagonists, while there is a moment of racism that the twins and their friends face, their story is not about being being discriminated against or code switching. As Jerry Craft said in his Newbery acceptance speech for New Kid, "I wanted to create stories that show the side of African American life that isn't steeped in misery. A book that kids of color can proudly embrace, and that other kids can still relate to." Craft has definitely done that with new kid Drew Ellis and Johnson and Wright do that with twins Fran and Maureen.
Don't miss this AMAZING middle grade novel by Varian JohnsonThe Parker Inheritance
Shannon Wright has illustrated picture books and book covers, including this excellent middle grade novel by Celia C. Pérez