Zeb Larson reviews Paper Girls #1…
All right Paper Girls, you managed to hook me on the first issue. Set in 1988 in suburban Cleveland, it is about four paper girls who stumble upon a very weird mystery. This book has a lot going for it: strong, sassy female leads, a science-fiction premise which resists simple unraveling, witty dialogue, and a conclusion that pulls the rug out from under our feet. It is simultaneously a book about the difficulty of being a teenaged girl in a world that does not respect teenaged girls as well as a science-fiction tale. I will be discussing spoilers in this review, so consider yourself forewarned.
On November 1, 1988, Erin wakes up at 4:30 for her paper delivery route. She’s harassed by a group of Halloween tricksters, but Mac (MacKenzie), an astonishingly foul-mouthed delivery girl drives them away. Mac is working with Tiffany and KJ in order to cope with all of the post-Halloween weirdos, and they split up to deliver papers. Tiffany and KJ are jumped by a group of costumed men who steal a walkie-talkie, and together the four girls follow them into a basement. They find an alien gadget there, and when they tamper with it the electricity shorts out and they run outside to see an alien sky. After scuffling again with the men, one of them is unhooded and appears to be a human being with cybernetics. He drops a gadget that Erin recognizes: it’s an Apple logo.
From the first page, I loved the set-up of the book. There’s a lot of ambiguity woven in here about what is significant and what is not, and even the clues we get are ambiguous about just what is going on. Is Erin’s dream at the beginning of the book significant in some way as it warns her that she shouldn’t have eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, or is it just one of those awful school dreams we all suffer from? The red streak in the sky and the device the girls find suggests that aliens are involved…but that last panel pulls the rug out from under that theory. Have the girls found another reality, or have they gone forward in time? Just what the hell is going on? It makes for good, suspenseful reading.
Coupled with the strong sci-fi mystery is the strong characterization. Each of the girls is charming, though Mac’s personality has a few rough edges. Moreso than quick-witted dialogue though, each of the characters has to be a girl in a man’s world. They’re each unusual because they’re paper girls in a world of paper boys, they’re standouts in their school, and yet people don’t really take them seriously. They have to band together just to deal with all of the jackasses on Halloween, and the adult world doesn’t take them very seriously either. So what’s going to happen now that they’ve just been plunged into something incredibly weird?
It’s hard to say much more given that there’s a lot of ambiguity woven into all of this. All I can say is that I’m stoked for #2.