by Jane Yolen, Mike Cavallaro (First Second, 2010)

It seems at first like a somewhat routine coming-of-age story about a young girl who fits in nowhere else but on the fencing floor.

In the hands of author Jane Yolen, however -- ably assisted by illustrator Mike Cavallaro -- Foiled is so much more.

It begins with a girl, Aliera Carstairs, and a jewel-mounted practice fencing foil that her mom found for $2 at a tag sale, and which Aliera then lost in Grand Central Station. The book is organized within the framework of a fencing competition, and readers with no knowledge of the sport will soon understand that it's not, for instance, like the classic duel in The Princess Bride.

So then there's this guy Aliera knows, by the name of Avery Castle, and he's cute. And a little creepy.

Like I said, it's a pretty basic coming-of-age story for a while -- there's a first kiss and typical teenage awkwardness, among the general uncomfortableness of a school where you never blend in -- until someone flies by her at Grand Central Station around page 93, and by page 98, the muted palette -- Aliera, by the way, sees life in shades of gray -- explodes into vibrant color. Turns out she's the Defender.

Foiled is Yolen's first foray into graphic novels, and it's a contemporary young-adult fantasy story that suits her style of storytelling well. Mike Cavallaro's art, while not outstanding, is clean, imaginative and kinetic, and it puts an enjoyable face to the tale.

The sequel is already on my nightstand. I'll probably start it tonight.

review by
Tom Knapp

6 July 2013

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