Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

Review by Sara Francoeur

Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan), February 2019

352 pages, hardcover, $24.99 CAD, 978-1-62672-364-1

Ages 14–18, Grades 7–12

Young Adult, Contemporary Realism, Romance, Fiction

Mir sat down at the kitchen table and put her head in her hands, digging her fingers deep into the roots of her hair. Sometimes she would pick up a comic book from a display table at the Emporium of Wonders and look for her grandfather’s name in the credits: Based on characters created by Joseph Warrick and Micah Kendrick. She would put her finger over Joseph Warrick’s name and stare at her grandfather’s name. She imagined him at a drawing desk, ink flowing from the brush he was moving across a sheet of white paper. She imagined him drawing the face of Skylark, a face with wide eyes and full lips, a face that looked so much like Stella’s. The face of an alien queen who fell in love with a superhuman man.

Miriam “Mir” Kendrick seems more aware of what she doesn’t have that what she really wants for her life. When her artist grandfather co-created the comic series The TomorrowMen in his youth and then sold the rights to his partner, he had no way of knowing it was destined to be a multi-million-dollar empire. The missed opportunity at fortune, a lengthy lawsuit, and eventual meagre settlement is a part of the Kendrick family legacy that Mir can’t let go of; living in small-town Nova Scotia, steeped in her family’s misfortune and humble living, Mir longs to escape to Toronto for university. The TomorrowMen comic empire, now in L.A., is run by the Warricks—family of Mir’s grandfather’s ex-co-creator. So, when Weldon Warrick, only son and heir to the comic fortune, is shipped to Nova Scotia to spend the summer with his relatives, their worlds collide. As Weldon and Mir fall for each other, family history makes things very complicated indeed.

Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks has a fun forbidden-love plot that keeps the reader wondering if protagonist Mir will be able to let go of the past and enjoy her summer romance. But there is so much more going on with this story that makes it an enjoyable read. Mir has flaws that readers might find annoying at first: she is clearly resentful over the lost opportunity at fortune and the small-town setting that confines her. When the independent comic store where she works part-time suddenly goes out of business, Mir’s anger over her lost wages overshadows any concern for her boss, a lifelong family friend, or the community. However, beyond her entitlement is a smart and driven teen who works hard to create opportunity for herself. She has big dreams and is puzzled that her friends don’t have the same aspirations. At the climax of the story Mir travels to L.A. The growth in Mir’s character is evident as she is exposed to the change in setting and observes first-hand how different Weldon’s life is to hers.

The secondary characters in the two families are amusingly contrasted. The vegetable-growing, artistic, board-game-playing Kendricks have dial-up internet and a run-down home at the dodgy end of the street, but are a joyful and supportive family. Whereby the Warricks, divorced, moody, unreliable, and too busy for their not-so-surprisingly delinquent son, have the luxuries and resources that many desire. 

Hick’s portrayal of female friendship draws attention to the strength of the female relationships in the story. My favourite scene conveys a conversation between Mir and her best friend, Raleigh. As Mir struggles to feel confident in her decision to eventually leave town for university, she worries most about abandoning Raleigh, with whom things have been increasingly strained. While sitting on the front porch steps at Mir’s house, the two friends share a truly beautiful moment discussing their shared history and respective futures in a scene that creates considerable depth for both characters.

Readers who are fans of comics and graphic novels will enjoy the references to ComicCon and comic fandom. The industry backdrop is especially fascinating considering Hicks’ place as a graphic novelist. Based loosely in history, the story makes reference to unfair contracts, and comic artists who are undervalued compared to industry counterparts.

With many layers in setting and character tied into a comic industry backdrop, this book has a lot more to offer, in addition to the teen romance. 

Sara Francoeur lives with her family in a beachy neighbourhood just outside of Vancouver, B.C. With a degree in comparative religion and a background in fashion, Sara now studies creative writing at UBC. 

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