Twins graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Scholastic Graphix - 978-1-3382-3613-2
  • Release date: 2020
  • UPC: 9781338236132
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

Francine and Maureen have grown up together as twin sisters, but have very different personalities. Francine is outgoing and confident, while Maureen is studious and introspective. Twins is the story of what happens when they start middle school.

Varian Johnson’s writing pays attention to the small touches, ensuring a plausible relationship between the sisters is established from the start. Not enough people see twins as individuals, and that’s something Francine, or Fran as she would now prefer to be known, has realised and so is taking steps to curate her own identity. Maureen, though, is bright, but her lack of confidence is holding her back, so while Fran attends gym classes Maureen is enrolled in the Cadet Corps, which begins some hard life lessons.

Almost the entire story is told from Maureen’s viewpoint, although the feelings of others are shown by Shannon Wright, and Johnson also manages to make a couple of viable points about stereotyping along the way. Wright keeps the art simple and focussed on the characters, but there’s never any feeling of the pages being too plain, the bright colours helping with that, and the people are drawn in ways that make them sympathetic.

The complications and problems are naturally set up by Johnson, with his biography after the story revealing he has a twin brother, so surely had plenty of personal experience to feed in. Unusually for any story set in a school, there is no deliberately unpleasant character, which is refreshing, and positivity and being proactive for a good cause is underlined in other aspects, with the crux of the story concerning an election for posts on the student council. It’s notable that Maureen’s reactions to what happens are entirely natural, rather than being contrived to fit the generally positive agenda.

A happy ending is expected, but Johnson’s method of arriving there is unconventional and accepts compromise is a necessary part of life. All in all Twins is a very good graphic novel in an increasingly crowded young adult genre.