There’s a good chance you see a title called Girl Haven and assume you’re about to read a story about girl power. In a way, you’d be right, though Girl Haven doesn’t explore this concept in the way many readers would expect. To quote author Lilah Sturges, “Girl Haven is a story about gender. [It’s] mainly about one type of gender experience, [but] it’s central message is true for everyone: Your story is your own.” From the touching preface through an uplifting story, this graphic novel from Oni Press, is as timely as it is entertaining.
Girl Haven is a very cute story with light-hearted humor. The friendship and emotional bond between the characters is obvious and makes the reader love and root for them as the plot moves forward. The story follows four friends who are transported to the magical land of Koretris, a place for girls only, where no boys are allowed. This presents a problem for the graphic novel’s protagonist, Ash, because he’s a boy. Luckily, his friends are all female-identifying and along for the ride through this mystic realm. During their adventure, they see wondrous things, help Ash make a personal discovery, and come together to save Koretris.
The story starts off a little slow, but then picks up into a thrilling adventure story. Admittedly, if you’ve read a lot of fantasy, the plot and dialogue are very predictable. However, that doesn’t stop Girl Haven from being a really fun read. This graphic novel is a stellar example of representation in comic books. Within only a few panels of meeting Ash’s friends, we learn that they are all queer but none of them is ever defined by their sexuality. They all have distinct personalities that make them stand out from their counterparts, giving each character their own unique voice. This is the first YA graphic novel I’ve ever read that acknowledges that a person’s perception of their gender is fluid and can change as they learn more about themselves. This is an important message for all readers, and especially young adults.
“Girl Power” is on full display in one aspect of this graphic novel in the form of its all-female creative team. The three ladies work together seamlessly to create the wonderful world and characters of Girl Haven. Meaghan Carter’s artwork reminds me of Henry and June from Nickelodeon’s animated variety show KaBlam! It is the perfect style to capture Girl Haven’s magic and warmth. Even though her style is simple, Carter does a great job rendering the scale of the characters and their surroundings. Often, everyone in a comic book is drawn at more or less the same height. That’s not the case in this graphic novel. The accurate scale to which Carter draws helps make Koretris look real and helps transport the readers there, right alongside Ash and his friends.
Love is stronger than fear. That’s the central theme of Girl Haven and it’s a message from which we can all learn. I didn’t get this written in time to make the pre-order cut-off, but this is a graphic novel you’re going to want to check out when it releases on February 17th. It’s a book with something for almost everyone and is especially appropriate (and important) for young readers. This fantasy adventure story is well written if a bit derivative. The graphic novel is drawn in a fun and coherent style, and the characters are representative of people not featured often enough in comic books. Grab yourself a copy and get ready to journey through Koretris.
Story: Lilah Sturges Art: Meaghan Carter Letterer: Joamette Gil
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review