Review: Squad


Title: Squad
Creator: Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Lisa Sterle (Illustrator)
Genres: Graphic novel, paranormal fantasy
Pages: 224 pages
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Review copy: Library
Availability: Available now!

Summary: Pretty Little Liars meets Teen Wolf in this fast-paced, sharply funny, and patriarchy-smashing graphic novel from author Maggie Tokuda-Hall and artist Lisa Sterle. When the new girl is invited to join her high school’s most popular clique, she can’t believe her luck—and she can’t believe their secret, either: they’re werewolves. Fans of Mariko Tamaki and Elana K. Arnold will devour the snappy dialogue, vivid artwork, and timely social commentary.

When Becca transfers to a high school in an elite San Francisco suburb, she’s worried she’s not going to fit in. To her surprise, she’s immediately adopted by the most popular girls in school. At first glance, Marley, Arianna, and Mandy are perfect. But at a party under a full moon, Becca learns that they also have a big secret. Becca’s new friends are werewolves. Their prey? Slimy boys who take advantage of unsuspecting girls. Eager to be accepted, Becca allows her friends to turn her into a werewolf, and finally, for the first time in her life, she feels like she truly belongs.

But things get complicated when Arianna’s predatory boyfriend is killed, and the cops begin searching for a serial killer. As their pack begins to buckle under the pressure—and their moral high ground gets muddier and muddier—Becca realizes that she might have feelings for one of her new best friends. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — it really does feel like we’re in a queer comics boom, and I am over the moon about it. From Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me to The Magic Fish, browsing the graphic novel section has been an absolute joy. Of course, I was really excited to pick up Squad, illustrated by Lisa Sterle and written by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who wrote the queer fantasy The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (which you should check out if you get the chance!).

Squad is described as Pretty Little Liars meets Teen Wolf, which is apt. But I personally found it closer to Mean Girls — new girl in town falls in with the most popular girls in school, who dictate her wardrobe and the parties she goes to. The twist is the one advertised: the girls are werewolves and their targets are gross, predatory guys. As the heroine Becca is pulled deeper into the world of these girls, she starts to fall for one of them and must choose what matters most to her.

It’s obvious from the cover, but the illustrations and colors in Squad are simply gorgeous. It’s worth it to pick up the graphic novel for that alone. The illustrations move easily from parties, bright colors, and chic outfits to (mostly, but not entirely off-page) violence and gore.

The writing is a perfect match for the illustrations, and the dialogue and twists keep you turning the pages. In the moment, it’s a fun, cathartic read — especially when you catch certain references to contemporary figures and get to see the patriarchy literally ripped to shreds. But when I finished reading and had time to really sit with what I’d just read, I came away unsure what the story was trying to say or why certain plot twists had to happen the way they did. The overall plot would have benefitted from more character development and time to breathe. At the same time, I wouldn’t hold this against Squad — this isn’t an uncommon issue in graphic novels, where creators might be working with limitations we don’t know about.

At the end of the day, I’d happily recommend Squad to anyone looking for a gorgeously rendered graphic novel with plenty of werewolves and a bit of queer romance. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, then I would point you to the many other queer YA graphic novels out right now. That’s what makes me happiest about Squad: the more queer graphic novels out there, the merrier.

Recommendation: Get it soon or borrow it someday.