Squad by Maggie Tokunda-Hall, illustrated by Lisa Sterle. Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins, 2021. 9780062943156
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Format: Hardcover graphic novel
What did you like about the book? With the subtitle “Anyone would kill to belong” floating above wolf silhouettes, we can guess that this Mean Girls meets Teen Wolf mash-up will be blood-soaked and suspenseful. Becca (with Asian features and dark hair) is the new kid and pretty enough to draw the attention of the school’s popular and gorgeous posse: blonde and ditsy Marley, the pulled-together, auburn-tressed Arianna, and Amanda (the crew’s only Black girl). Makeovers ensue and Becca strives to conform to the crew’s dieting, partying, and fashion directives. Soon she’s let in on their dark secret: they’re werewolves and need to kill and eat once a month to survive. To escape detection and moral compromise, they attend parties out of town, lure “rapey” guys to secluded spots, and then gorge (always with hair ties on hand to keep those long locks out of the gore). An unplanned murder close to town and a late night snack on a innocent victim leads to internal dissent, police attention, and a betrayal. As the situation is resolved, Becca and Marley end up relieved of their were-ways and happily in love. The artwork looked great: a slick, color-saturated reworking of Archie comics with innovative panel placement and skewed visual perspectives. The book is divided into chapters, heralded by increasingly blood-splattered pages.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I thought the message was pretty mixed. The text reinforces that notion that girls who dress up, go to parties, and sneak off with guys are literally asking for it. The wolfettes (especially the leader, Arianna) are relentlessly mean and equate beauty with skinniness. Becca and Amanda are routinely targeted by Arianna and Marley with microaggressions, but this remains unexplored and there’s no response or discussion of the attacks. Becca’s mom plays a small, annoying-parent role, but that part of the plot was too shallow to have much resonance, as was the Becca/Marley romance.
To whom would you recommend this book? Older teens and adults who love Riverdale and want a female-centric twist on old legends. The f-bomb is in heavy rotation here and there’s a lot of drinking, partying, and generally reprehensible behavior. The art is definitely much stronger than the storyline, so those selecting this book for its beautiful illustrations and color work will be rewarded.
Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Graphic novels
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: October 23, 2021