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Paper Girls: Book One - Book Review

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published January 9th 2018
Delivering your paper and battling space men from the future
Vaughn & Chiang & Wilson & Fletcher
Vaughn & Chiang & Wilson & Fletcher

Brian K. Vaughan is one of my favourite writers. He is best known for his work as a graphic novel writer. His works have been massive commercial successes from Y the Last Man to Saga to Ex Machina to most recently, Paper Girls. A lot of his works have a strong feminist theme running through them.

Vaughan is able to do something that a lot of other writers struggle to do well: he can write good female characters. He doesn't rely on tired old stereotypes. His heroines aren't walking sex objects wearing impossibly tight outfits or your typical damsels in distress. He is able to write women and girls as human beings instead of just pretty things to be admired.

I have written before about how much I am a fan of his other work Saga. Paper Girls shares a lot of things in common with Saga. Paper Girls is written by Vaughn and illustrated by Cliff Chiang. The colours are done by Matt Wilson and the lettering is done by Jared K. Fletcher. Paper Girls is published by Image Comics and began its print run in October 2015.

It is a mystery/science fiction story set in the 1980s. It follows the story of four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls called Erin, MacKenzie, KJ and Tiffany, who meet one morning while delivering papers and get sucked into a mystery involving dinosaurs and visitors from the future who arrive in space ships.

Paper Girls is a little bit Stranger Things, a little bit Back to the Future and a little bit Babysitters Club. The first deluxe hardback edition of the comic contains issues 1 through to 10 and was released in November 2017. The book is utterly gorgeous. It is large and pink and features all of the Paper Girls on the front. The back of the book contains sketches, scripts, and information about the creators.

Paper Girls focuses on Erin. Erin is an Asian-American girl who lives in the fictional suburb of Stony Stream, Cleveland. The book opens up with her having a nightmare. I thought the illustration style of Paper Girls was very similar to Fiona Staple's work in Saga. In the first opening pages, when Erin is having her nightmare, she is met with the ghost of an astronaut who looks a lot like Prince Robot IV from Saga.

After waking up from her nightmare on the morning of the 1st of November, 1988, Erin packs her satchel full of newspapers and heads off on her bicycle to begin her paper round. In the early hours of "Hell Morning" she meets Mac, Tiff and KJ for the first time. After a scuffle with some bullies and an encounter with the police, the girls decide to team up. The group quickly become friends.

What's really great about Paper Girls is how diverse the main group of girls are. You have the cigarette smoking, foul-mouthed Mac, the hockey-stick wielding KJ, Tiffany with her walkie talkies, and the intelligent and mature Erin.

The Paper Girls are not girls you want to mess with. If you take their stuff from them they will come and get it back and rough you up. If you pick on one of them you will have to deal with all of them. Erin is my favourite character. When Mac is introduced to readers for the first time the first word out of her mouth is a homophobic slur. Erin is quick to call her out for it and tell her that she should not use the F-word and that anyone can get AIDS not just homosexuals.

Paper Girls presents an honest view of what life was like back in the 1980s and the picture is not pleasant. Political correctness was not a huge thing back then. Erin's maturity in the face of Mac's homophobia makes her character easy to like.

If I had to say something negative about Paper Girls it would be as the story progresses and becomes more science fiction-y, it gets a little bit weird. The space men who invade Stoney Stream in the early hours of Hell Morning appear on the backs of winged dinosaurs and speaking a strange language similar to English.

The creative team haven't explained 100% what is going on yet. Vaughan has stated in interviews that he knows how he is going to end Paper Girls so everything will be explained to the reader eventually.

Paper Girls is a fantastic read. It features a main cast of wonderfully written female characters and its story is unique and original and heading to interesting places.
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Why? Paper Girls is a little bit Stranger Things, a little bit Babysitters Club, with a dash of ET and Back to the Future thrown in as well.
Where: Available from your local bookstore or online retailer
Cost: $40 - $50
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