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Book review: Foiled (graphic novel)

Foiled.  Story by Jane Yolen, Art by Mike Cavallaro.

* YALSA 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens List


When I was an undergraduate in college, my friends packed together and signed up for judo one semester, spending their time throwing each other onto mats and comparing bruises. They patted themselves on their backs and commended their choice…that is, until they saw me in my fencing gear. Yup, that’s right. I opted to spend my semester learning how to fence, and it was by far one of the COOLEST things I’ve ever done.  Fencing is such a graceful sport…and, come on, you get to hold a weapon, wear padding that feels like armor, AND don a nifty mask.  So, I couldn’t have been more surprised – and any happier – than when I discovered Foiled, a graphic novel by Jane Yolen.

The heroine of this story is Aliera Carstairs, and Aliera is not your typical teen girl. By day, she’s a bit of a loner, floating through her high school hallways practically invisible to others because she doesn’t fit into any of the major peer groups (e.g., nerds, goths).  But as soon as she leaves school, she comes to life as a fencer (at a nationally competitive level, by the way). But like all teens, there’s a part of Aliera that wants to “belong.” So when the cutest boy in school just happens to become her lab partner, she finds herself starting to really question her happiness as a loner for the first time and how much of her current lifestyle she’d be willing to sacrifice for some of that normalcy.

The art by Mark Cavallaro captures Aliera’s passion and mood swings perfectly. Much of the art is also in two-tones, muted colors chosen to highlight the mostly hum drum world of Aliera. That is, until the latter portion of the novel when Aliera puts on her fencing mask in Grand Central Station. It’s at this point that the novel not only explodes in color, but also introduces a fantasy component of epic proportions to Aliera’s tale…where words like “destiny,” and “hero” come into play, and creatures such as faeries and trolls take over the scene.

According to Jane Yolen’s web site, Foiled is just part 1 of Aliera’s story; there is a 2nd volume in the works that will complete her tale. And to be honest, this first definitely feels more like the start of a really cool story than a complete story in itself. So I will anxiously await the sequel and will definitely put this pair of graphic novels on the “keeper” section of my personal book shelves.  And if you aren’t intrigued enough to pick up the book just yet, check out the book trailer below that originally was posted on Jane Yolen’s own site, which is made entirely with artwork from within the novel itself.

~ Nicole Dolat…

…thinking of reading Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (vol. 1)