Review by Tess Tabak
Paper Girls, a new graphic novel by Brian K. Vaughn, is an enchanting read for all ages. Set in 1988, four paper girls band together for protection from thugs on Halloween night. However, the girls discover bigger problems afoot when a mysterious invasion threatens to tear apart their quiet suburban world.
Penned by the masterful Brian K. Vaughn, author of graphic novels like Runaways and Saga, Paper Girls is a gripping, fast-moving tale full of suburban nostalgia and mysterious intrigue. We follow Erin, Mackenzie, KJ and Tiffany as they struggle to figure out what’s happening to their town, and to find an adult who can help them. But when they find most of the other people in their town have vanished, they quickly realize that they’re on their own.
Most refreshingly of all, the heroines of Paper Girls are not one-dimensional tomboys. As this is the beginning of a series, we don’t know much about the girls yet, but the characterizing details Vaughn provides makes it clear that each of them is different: Mackenzie is the bravest of the group, becoming the first paper girl in the neighborhood. Erin is thoughtful, connecting details. When one of the “aliens” drops a chip with the Apple logo, Erin recognizes the logo from one of the computers at her school, and wonders if the “aliens” are actually visitors from the future.
Beautifully illustrated by Cliff Chiang, the girls are each visually distinct as well. Chiang’s drawings do a beautiful job of crafting the atmosphere before and after the invasion. It is clear he’s carefully thought about every detail in each panel. There is visual foreshadowing riddled throughout the volume as on an early page when Erin bikes down an empty street, unaware of the asteroid hurtling through the sky behind her. Chiang also carefully places apple imagery throughout the graphic novel, hinting at a deeper connection between Apple computers and the forbidden tree of knowledge.
Vaughn has a great record with fully rounded female characters, and Paper Girls is no exception. Though it’s a great read for any person at any age, I would urge any parents with young daughters to buy them a copy of Paper Girls. With the popularity of Stranger Things, it’s great to see an 1980s mystery with an all-female core cast.