By Hope Larson
ginee seo books/Atheneum Books, 2008
By Miles Baker
I almost could not be farther from Chiggers’ target demographic and that’s a serious problem with the review that’s going to follow. Chiggers is about 15-year-old girls at summer camp and is distinctly targeted to appeal to an audience that will see themselves in Abby, the main character.
I never went to summer camp. I never made friendship bracelets. I never shaved my legs in the shower. I never knew anyone with chiggers. I never was a girl.
But if you are those things I think you’ll find a nice character-driven story about the often-strained friendships that girls have. The story begins and ends with a summer at camp; Abby’s replacement bunkmate, Shasta, rubs her old friends the wrong way and Abby is torn between the two groups. The great thing about Abby’s friends is that they are mostly nice people, who are really catty — like real 15-year olds. You understand why Abby would be friends with them, but also why she would long for someone who she has a little more in common with.
However, the climax of the story is a little weak — it revolves around a fight that Shasta and Abby have. I would have like to see the fight be bigger or meaner or something. Though, there is a certain charm to the fact that the story resolves on what I’d call a minor fight, thought it probably wouldn’t seem minor to the characters.
Larson’s art is uniformly excellent throughout. She’s an artist with a clear understanding of where her lines should be and why. Her characters can sometimes look a little similar, but she gives enough detail so that if you are paying attention you can easily tell them apart. The best part of her girls is how awkward they look, also like real young people.
I love the way that the tails of the word balloon swirl around at appropriate times. However, I wish that her balloons were smoother. They wiggle as if all the characters were in a permi-drunk state and it takes away from the impact when she needs them to be wiggle for emotion.
It’s a visually well-crafted story, and I’m happy to see that publishers are making efforts to get girls into comics. I just wish the story had a more broad appeal. I’m a really girly guy and I couldn’t get into it. Maybe it’s that I don’t like books that scream “smart publishing decision” and maybe because I like my girls meaner.
NOTE: This review is based on an advance review copy provided by Simon and Shuster Canada and is not the final published work.