I’m noticing a trend in my reading habits. If a graphic novel has ghost in the name, I’m almost certainly going to pick it up. I love ghosts! From a storytelling perspective, they immediately offer up hundreds of different possibilities. Sometimes, this is as simple as a character getting to interact with a lost friend or family member, but, in its extreme, it can open up an entire world of magic on a single conceit. Take Paranorman or Coco; both build expansive worlds just on the question of what is the afterlife. All My Friends Are Ghosts reminds me of the latter, taking the idea of someone who sees ghosts and transforming it into an entire lore.
Conveniently, much of the premise of the book is laid out in its name. All My Friends Are Ghosts is about Effie, a girl who loves writing and doesn’t fit in at her school. She discovers a school for ghosts hidden away at her local park and befriends Beulah (a powerful poltergeist), Caim (a rules-oriented pyrokinetic), and Nikhil (a “regular” ghost). Together, the four set out on a quest to learn how to bring lost souls – those who have forgotten their identities and gone feral – back to their senses.
All My Friends Are Ghosts has a fun, energetic pace. It’s careful to balance its world building with some legitimately clever jokes. Oftentimes, standalone stories like this are so desperate to get their world established that they forget to focus on their story. Here, the author never forgets our leads, keeping them center stage while the world is developed around them. Despite an overall great theme with strong characters, I believe the script could have used another editing pass. Some dialogue is awkwardly worded, and I did find one rather glaring spelling error near the end of the final chapter. These issues are small, but they’re the sort of things that hold a great book back.
Tying the story together is the artwork, and artist Krieger deserves special praise for taking a simple, cartoony style and giving it so much personality. Many of the ghosts featured have skeletal or animal faces, and yet they still find ways to give them expressive features. Expressions in general are clearly this artist’s specialty; Beulah has some of the best expressions in the entire book, going from silly to intimidating at the drop of a hat. They also use the fact that ghosts can look like anything to create unique background characters that give group scenes a lot more visual intrigue.
All My Friends Are Ghosts isn’t a perfect graphic novel. I see places it could be improved upon, but it has heart. It builds upon itself and tells a story worth telling. Its characters are lovable, and its message is unique. The ending leaves open the possibility that we’ll see these characters again, and I dearly hope we do. I also hope you’ll pick up this book, so the creators know there’s an interest in seeing more of the world they’ve built.
Creative Team: S.M. Vidaurri (Writer), Hannah Krieger (Artist), Mike Fiorentino (Letterer)
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