En garde! It’s Foiled

Foiled by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mike Cavallaro; published by First Second, New York, 2010; 160 pages.Foiled cover art

Even the smallest high schools have cliques.  That’s what Aliera Carstairs tells us.  She’s a New York City high school sophomore that doesn’t fit in with any clique; she’s a loner and she likes it that way.  Her after-school routine is bus and subway transfers to her fencing school where she dominates thanks to a “shaggy Hagrid kind of guy” who teaches her.  Saturdays follow a similar routine but end with visits to her aunt and teen cousin (who happens to be wheelchair bound due to arthritis).  Aliera and Caroline, her cousin, spend their time in a role-playing game in which Aliera is the Defender and Caroline, the Queen.  But is that a role-playing game or real life?  When breathtakingly handsome Avery Castle develops into more than just a lab partner, much of Aliera’s world will be unmasked.

I wondered why the graphic novel was predominantly rendered in greyscale.  As I progressed through the story, I learned that the heroine is color blind.  Aha!  Then flashes of color begin creeping into the drawings.  Brilliant use of illustration to help tell the story!

I am also ashamed to admit that my familiarity with the incredible Jane Yolen comes only through her fiction and nonfiction books for children.  I wasn’t even aware that she writes sci fi for teens until I picked up this book and researched a little more about one of my favorite children’s authors.  Wow, is it possible to hold her in even higher esteem?

Aside from the wonderful marriage of story and pictures, I was impressed by the theme of self-discovery.  Yolen portrays strong, confident women in a very positive light.  In addition, it’s okay to be a loner and pursue your passion.  All of these are wonderful themes to carry into the hands of young women.

YALSA has included Foiled in the list of nominations for 2011’s “Great Graphic Novels for Teens.”  I think this is a wise choice since so many graphic novels are geared toward male readers, especially reluctant readers.  Here’s a hook for reluctant readers of the female persuasion looking for a strong heroine.

For librarians (or anyone else who’s interested!) there is a Foiled board game!  All the pieces you need to assemble a game  box is included in this PDF*.  Can you imagine including a life-sized Foiled game in the teen area while the children’s department hosts a life-sized Candyland?!  Even just a display of the book and a box with all the components of the game (laminated, of course) in the young adult area would be super.

4P     5Q     Grade Level: 9-12+

Cover Art: The sly glance of our heroine on a fiery red-faded-to-orange background will intrigue young adults.

From Reading List: Great Graphic Novels for Teens (YALSA)

*If the link isn’t working, here’s the Web address: http://us.macmillan.com/CMS400/uploadedFiles/custompagecontents/titles/FOILED-BOARDGAME-FULLSET(1).pdf.  Or try googling “Foiled board game Yolen.”
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