Foiled by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mike Cavallaro is a middle-grade graphic novel about Aliera, an introverted girl who fences who is ostensibly in high school, though she feels much younger to me. There’s a cute new guy at school who seems a little odd and when she tried to meet him at the train station, things become really odd. Aliera’s only friend is her wheelchair-bound cousin with rheumatoid arthritis. She just got a new practice weapon (NB: not a sword) that her mother picked up cheap from a Chinese woman at a tag sale. (I don’t like the Mystical Asian cliche).
My description of the book won’t flow, because my experience didn’t either. It also ends just as it’s getting good. While I know this is part of what a series does, I do feel that each volume should have a complete story, and I didn’t think this one did. So I had hopes for the sequel, Curses Foiled Again. Alas, this worked even less for me, as a big villain was revealed, whose identity, past actions, and motivations I didn’t buy at all.
The illustrations are strong. Aliera is smart and funny, but as a whole, this didn’t work for me. There’s little subtext, so it’s all on the page, and the story isn’t complex enough to fully engage me. Perhaps because I’m not the target market? My children, 7 and 9, both boys, loved them.