Review: Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright
Twins (Twins #1)
By Varian Johnson
Illustrated by Shannon Wright
$24.99 (HC) $12.99 (PB)
Out Oct. 6, 2020
The process of growing up and becoming your own person can be tough. It can take a while. It can be filled with lots of mistakes. Varian Johnson (along with illustrator Shannon Wright) focuses on this transformation in Twins, his first graphic novel. But there’s an added element of complexity at play in this story: how do you grow up and become your own person when you’re an identical twin? The result is the best contemporary middle grade graphic novel you’ll read this year.
Maureen and Francine Carter are starting sixth grade. Middle school. While the first-day-at-a-new-school anxieties are real, so is the subtly shifting dynamic between the more reserved Maureen and more extroverted Francine. As Maureen slowly adapts to middle school life, things with Francine come to a head – in the form of a contentious class president election.
Varian Johnson is a twin himself – and it’s clear, he nails every element of the family dynamic, lending authenticity and heart to every interaction between Maureen and Francine, their parents and older brother. The characters are richly-drawn – at once familiar and relatable. You can feel the shared family history (a history that plays into the central conflict of the story) radiating off the page. Humor is nicely employed as well, countering the more dramatic moments.
Shannon Wright’s artwork is crisp, the color palate vibrant. Wright’s draughtsmanship is clear, with well composed panels and a clear attention to proportion and gesture. The most striking thing about her art for me though, is her use of expression. Eyes go from deep wells of despair to tiny dots of surprise to everywhere in between. It’s a joy to take in.
The first book in a series bound to please fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson, Twins is a must-add to your graphic novel collection.
Review copy from the publisher.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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