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Review: ‘GFFs: Ghost Friends Forever’ Volume 1

GFFs: Ghost Friends Forever header

GFFs: Ghost Friends Forever
Volume 1, “My Heart Lies in the 90s”
Written by Monica Gallagher, illustrated by Kata Kane
Papercutz, $9.99 (softcover), $14.99 (hardcover)
Ages 10-14 years

There’s a lot going on in GFFs: Ghost Friends Forever, but it’s all good-hearted. This supernatural mystery romance feels like a modern Nancy Drew, except in this case, ghosts are real.

Sophia is living with her father after her parents split up. Her brother Felix lives with Mom on the other side of town. The family business is ghost-hunting, and Sophia’s eager to join in. Mom is more scientific, while Dad makes potions and handles things more mystically.

GFFs: Ghost Friends Forever

Sophia’s first encounter as a paranormal investigator happens when she meets a girl ghost on her way to school. Whitney has been a spirit for twenty years, but that doesn’t stop Sophia from developing a crush on her. Meanwhile, Felix’s friend Jake has his own crush on Sophia, so he’s trying to mend the rift between the siblings. They all wind up working together to figure out Whitney’s story.

GFFs gives every indication of becoming a series, which would make the large amounts of information dumped more sensible, as there are a lot of plot threads to set up for the future. Sophia frequently talks to herself in the way that no real person ever would but is necessary to give the reader a lot of background. There are also random “how convenient as a plot device” elements, as when Whitney can magically become solid and a couple of characters turn out to be the same person.

The art style is simple and direct, with a manga influence younger readers will feel comfortable with. The figures are drawn from the outside in, without consistent anatomy. Panel compositions can feel static, but the expressions are clear and welcoming, and simple designs work well against the dialogue-driven story. Things move quickly because readers need to see various relationships repaired as well as solve the mystery of what happened to Whitney. The question of what drove the family apart is held for a future volume.

The book can feel at times like it’s talking down to young readers, but that’s a struggle many YA authors face. Writing for kids takes skill, and it can be tricky to find the balance without risking sounding a little patronizing, particularly when the graphic novel has a relatively short length and is this overstuffed. Future volumes of GFFs should calm down a bit. Regardless, the characters are worth spending more time with.

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Johanna About Johanna

Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Comments

  1. My students love to read about ghosts, so I think I’ll give this one a try in my library.

  2. Gloria Courser says:

    My daughter, 8 years old, checked this out of her school library after a 7 year old read it and recommended it to her. I was shocked and had no understanding why this would be considered literature fit for an educational facility. The whole mystery revolves around teen relationships, making out, and introduces lesbian themes to young readers perhaps before they are ready to tackle these subjects. I wouldn’t be that bothered by the introduction of gender themes to young readers if the story had any other value whatsoever. In my opinion, this book is pure junk…no moral crisis, character building, or literary value whatsoever and has no place in a school library; especially an elementary school.

  3. The story has plenty of value as entertainment, and I bet that if the ghost had been a boy you wouldn’t have felt the need to comment. Kids have wanted to read about teens dating for forever, as the existence of Archie Comics for over 70 years demonstrates. But the world is changing, and trying to tag books with LGBT+ themes as “junk” no longer flies. (Not to mention that a lesbian romance doesn’t equal “gender themes”, although I’m filing that away as the newest regressive code to watch out for.) Not all books in school libraries have to be educational; sometimes entertaining is enough.

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