TRESPASSERS by Breena Bard is a middle grade graphic novel that includes some mystery, some family drama, and some well-developed interaction between kids thrown together on vacation. As with many middle grade stories, Gabby, the main character, is thrown curveballs that threaten to upset the “known” in her life. The relationships within the family and between elders and peers all have ups-and-downs without feeling overly manufactured. And the hesitancy Gabby exhibits when pushed into uncomfortable situations will feel familiar to many readers.
Gabby loves to read and write; it is her refuge and it calms her. She loves it so much that it interferes with having fun with her family and with potential friends. At 13-years-old, she loves visiting her family’s summer cabin, but she also wants her space. The realization that a new family is next door with kids “just the right age” is unappetizing, but Gabby and her brother reluctantly oblige her parents’ urging to invite the neighbors along. Sometimes, like when the kids break into a neighboring home, readers watch as Gabby struggles with values and curiosity. Bard skillfully creates tense, peer-pressure fueled relationships that continue throughout the novel without the conflict feeling forced.
A standout aspect of this graphic novel is the detailed and nostalgic illustration that brings the area to life. The woods, the cabins, the boating, even the pregnant feral cat, all receive attention from Bard’s pen. Despite a simple overall look, the characters convey a wide range of emotions and have distinctive personalities that match the text.
Impressively, TRESPASSERS manages to create mysterious adventure and believable teen imaginations-gone-wild scenes that develop the characters and the relationships they share. There are also several instances where Gabby learns typical middle grade lessons in empathy and first impressions. Her relationships with her family, an elderly neighbor, and new companions next door flow naturally and weave together in the storyline. Overall, a fun summer read with a grown-up kid feel.