Foiled--Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro (Illustrator)
April 2010 by First Second
Aliera Carstairs just doesn't fit in.
She's invisible at high school.
She's too visible at the fencing gym.
Aliera's starting to wonder...where does she belong?
I love browsing shelves. I always find books I never would have encountered otherwise. This was the case with Foiled. I was actually looking for American Born Chinese, which was not on the shelf despite the library catalog's insistence that it was checked-in. Scouring the shelves, I discovered this book, which looked interesting enough to check out, so I did. When you browse you find both jewels and duds, and as much as I didn't want it to be, I think this one was a dud.
This was my first real venture into graphic novels. I'm not counting the time a couple years ago when I flipped through the Artemis Fowl graphic novel but figured it was only for those who couldn't finish the real book. This year I was introduced to graphic novels as a different, completely valid, and vibrant form of story telling, so I was excited to give a graphic novel a try.
The illustrations are great. Cavallaro focuses in on just the right images, images I wouldn't normally have considered such as shadowed silhouettes on the wall. He captures the characters' personalities wonderfully. He does some great things with color too. The majority of the story is unexpectedly cast in two tones. This is explained away by Aleira's colorblindness, but it was a very different choice that did some great things with the story. The gray/brown tones make the rare colors significant. Cavallaro even makes the publication information page look interesting.
I liked the graphic aspect of the book but had issues with the novel aspect. It feels like the book just a set up for a longer series, but doesn't have a story of its own. It's as if Harry Potter stopped after Hagrid announced "Yer a wizard, Harry." What? You can't sotp it there! The plot that is present feels haphazardly thrown together. This drives me insane because Aleira's character is awesome She's snappy and strong and unsure of herself and exactly what a high school girl feels like, and the plot didn't do her justice; it didn't really let her do anything. The conflict isn't introduced until the middle of the book, but then that's not the real climax, and we go through some tunnels and ...what? Maybe the problem was that Yolen didn't introduce the fantastical elements early enough; they're sprung on us halfway through the book without any preparation, so it just feels clunky.
I didn't even dislike the book. I wanted it to be good and I saw the potential for awesomeness. The lack of awesomeness when such potential was there was frustrating. I really wanted to like the book, but it just left me kind of meh. Hopefully, my next try with a graphic novel will be better.
**Random notes that didn't fit with the rest of the review: Avery is creepy and not in a masterful Ben-Linus-manipulative-awesomely-creepy way, just in an euhhh off-putting way. I can see why he was characterized that way, but I didn't like it. I liked the use of fencing throughout the book. It's a sport not often used in books and I wish we could have seen more of it.