Early Book Review: One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks is being rereleased with reworked art and full color on July 14 2020.  
It is a middle-grade friendship story from one of my favorite graphic novel authors for this age group. When studious thirteen-year-old Juniper wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ellsmere Academy, she expects to find a scholastic utopia. But living at Ellsmere is far from ideal: She is labeled a “special project,” Ellsmere's queen bee is out to destroy her, and it’s rumored that a mythical beast roams the forest next to the school.

One Year at Ellsmere is not completely unexpected by fans of the author or genre. Middle grade and boarding school often go together, but as usual Hicks makes even the 'bad guy' a character that readers know is not wholly bad, despite their actions and the emotions that they often inspire. I love that Jun and Cassie are the main players, but they are not perfect rather they have the same fallibility that some readers might relate to. I really like that they are so different, and while they do make mistakes they are willing to own up to them and do better. They seem to recognize that others are equally fallible and that the things they do might come from a place of insecurity or pain rather than just being evil. The forest addition is lovely, and adds a jumping off point for interesting future stories, but it felt a little unnecessary to me. A fun twist, which adds a little mystical something, but I thought it could have been played in several other ways. Hicks remains one of my must reads authors, and I will continue looking for their work because even when it is not exactly perfect n my eyes, it is still pretty awesome.

One Year at Ellsmere is a perfect example of why I became a fan of Hicks in the first place. The story and art are perfectly matched, and offer a story that is engaging, entertaining, and hits readers in the feels.

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