High school junior Becca has always been bookish and smart, the kind of girl no one really notices. So on her very first day at Piedmont High School, she’s surprised when she draws the attention of beautiful Marley and her megacool friends, and she can’t quite believe their interest in her is authentic. Granted, Arianna can be a little blunt, and Amanda and Marley make not-so-subtle attempts to tweak Becca’s personal style to match their own, but they all seem to genuinely enjoy spending time with her. But when they take her to a party, Becca realizes in the most disconcerting way possible that Marley’s clique isn’t a squad—it’s more like a pack.
Author Maggie Tokuda-Hall upends many classic werewolf tropes in Squad, her first graphic novel. Werewolves are typically hairy and muscular, but they’re also governed by the full moon, and Tokuda-Hall imbues them with feminine power. Squad is a revenge narrative and a quasi fable about consent, but beneath its supernatural premise, it’s also a classic teen drama that will disrupt readers’ assumptions about fashion-conscious teenage girls.
Illustrator Lisa Sterle’s bold, energetic artwork perfectly complements the novel’s themes of friendship, loyalty, betrayal and the possibility of love. Her palette ranges from muted jewel tones in nighttime scenes to rich reds as bright and bold as blood. Her depictions of the werewolves are particularly skillful, as she uses color and shape to connect each girl’s human and wolf forms. The book’s layouts are varied and dynamic, with small panel groupings occasionally interrupted by spreads that highlight moments of drama and emotion. Be forewarned: Squad’s most violent panels are fairly graphic, and these scenes of uncontained carnage can seem especially jarring when juxtaposed against the candy-colored, meticulously polished personas that the girls project in their human forms.
Squad is a story of dramatic contrasts and surprising transformations, and both its words and images underscore the notion that underneath their carefully cultivated surfaces, teenage girls might not be precisely what they seem.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the creation of Squad.