Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Middle-Grade Graphic Novel Review: This Was Our Pact

I have a stack of slightly spooky graphic novels to read for my fall 2019 RIP XIV Reading Challenge, and the first one I read was This Was Our Pact, a middle-grade graphic novel by Ryan Andrews. This sweet and original story about friendship has just the right amount of mild spookiness and magic for middle-grade readers to enjoy.

As part of its Fall Equinox Festival, a town celebrates with a fun tradition of sending a bunch of lit paper lanterns down the river. An old song says that the lanterns follow the river until they eventually journey into the night sky to become stars. Every year, a group of boys from town gets into the spirit of the event by jumping on their bikes and following the lanterns downriver (and downhill), but they always turn back at the same place, for a long trek back uphill to their warm homes. This year, the boys make a two-part pact: 1 - No One Turns For Home and 2 - No One Looks Back. One of the boys, Ben, rides alongside four friends who joined in the pact. Another boy, Nathaniel, is well behind the others but keeps calling for them to wait for him. Nathaniel is teased and taunted by the other boys (and they don't wait for him). Ben feels bad because they used to be friends when they were younger, but he doesn't stand up for Nathaniel, for fear of the other boys turning on him, and that makes him feel even worse. Eventually, though, Ben and Nathaniel are the only ones left on this special quest, as the other boys all give up and ride home. Reluctantly, Ben teams up with Nathaniel, still feeling guilty, but Nathaniel is the forgiving sort. Unexpectedly, the two boys encounter all kinds of surprises on their journey that night, including many things they never even dreamed of.

Sample pages from This Was Our Pact

This is a warm, sweet story of friendship and commitment, with a nice dose of magic and fantasy, in the form of a friendly talking bear, an eccentric sorceress named Madam Majestic, and many other unexpected things the boys encounter. Andrews fills his story with plenty of imagination and creativity, illustrated with engaging, often single-colored drawings (mostly blue to reflect the dark night but with other colors to call out certain scenes). There is a bit of suspense and slight spookiness, without ever being scary, as the pair of boys overcome one obstacle after another in their quest to follow the lanterns. Their pact holds them together, and Ben remembers why they used to be friends, with an exciting and satisfying ending that leaves the reader smiling.

330 pages, First Second

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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