Ed Brubaker’s Friday is what he calls a post-YA book. It tells the story of eighteen-year-old Friday, who was once a kid detective with her friend, the young genius Lance. Friday was the Watson to Lance’s Sherlock Holmes. In the present of the story, Friday has just returned from her first semester at college, and she is apprehensive about seeing Lance for the first time since their disastrous meeting the night before she left for college. She arrives in town, Kings Hill, by train and is met by Lance and Sheriff Bixby, who immediately take her out on a case that Lance and the Sheriff are working on: Weasel Wadsworth, a drug peddler and the son of the wealthiest man in town, has stolen a dangerous ancient stone dagger that has made sick the last person who touched it, the professor studying it. Why did Lance steal it? Is it making him mentally sick and driving his actions? These questions come to mind as the trio confront Weasel in the woods, but book one withholds these answers and is mysterious from start to finish.
This book consists of three chapters called “The First Day of Christmas,” and the projected trilogy will consist of nine chapters. Chapters four through six are collected in book two, and book three is not out yet. But chapters seven and eight are currently available online for purchase. Only chapter nine is not available yet in any form. Chapter one focuses on the current mystery in the present and ends with Friday lighting a cigarette and contemplating the night sky. Chapter two mainly consists of a flashback to when Friday and Lance were kids: Friday met Lance by accident when he was being bullied, and she took on the role of protector. Chapter two also gives the backstory of their adventures together as kid detectives up until she the night before she left for college at age eighteen. Chapter three returns us to the present and ends in an even greater mystery. The book ends with more questions raised than answered.
What makes this book so good? Well, first the art is fantastic: Marcos Martin does the art accompanied by Muntsa Vicente on colors. Friday comes off as a physically strong presence compared to the more frail Lance, and her power is clear from the time she was twelve and first met him. So, we get a sense of Friday as both a mentally and physically strong girl and then young woman. This story is also good because we get the thoughts of Friday through a third-person narrator who tells us what Friday is thinking throughout the book: We get to know Friday well through this narration, and we are led to like her and feel sympathy for her in her conflicted feelings about Lance. We are also allowed to see her as a flawed character: She is young and is unsure of herself and her relationship with Lance. At one point, our narrator tells us that Friday thinks that “being a person was so frustrating and stupid sometimes.”
This thought is core to the book because Friday is presented as a complex character. Brubaker reflects in the afterword to the graphic novel: “From the time I was 25 or so, I had this vague dream of writing a book like this. . . Something that felt gothic but grounded, like a post-YA book, where the kids that solved mysteries and confronted ghosts and monsters also grew up and had the same problems we all do, the same struggles, and bad habits.” So, while the book gives us a glimpse of Friday and Lance as kids, the real focus of the book is with them as young adults wrestling with grown-up problems for the first time, which I think is represented by Brubaker’s showing us Friday smoking and taking a swig from a flask. Her actions are those of a kid trying to act grownup as she faces her feelings for Lance: friend or boyfriend?
I highly recommend Friday. The only problem with it is that I wanted to start reading book two right away, so I recommend ordering both books together. I also plan to read chapters seven and eight online. I am disappointed only in that I cannot read the last chapter yet. I was unable to find a release date for chapter nine. Fans of Brubaker will recognize his usual focus on crime, but it has a different feel from his other books, even though quite a few of them have to do with young adults. Part of the difference must be the art, since Brubaker is having a rare collaboration with someone other than Sean Phillips. As much as I like Phillips, I wish Brubaker would work with a wider variety of artists, so for me, this is a welcome addition to the Brubaker library. So, I recommend this book for Brubaker fans, for adults who like YA books, and for those who enjoyed Encyclopedia Brown and the Great Brain when they