cover image Duel


Jessixa Bagley, illus. by Aaron Bagley. Simon & Schuster, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9655-2; $14.99 paper ISBN 978-1-5344-9654-5

Brown-skinned siblings Lucy and GiGi have fought ceaselessly since their father’s death. With their pale-skinned, grief-stricken mother exhausted by her job, the sisters are often left to mediate their conflicts, which escalate when, on Lucy’s first day of middle school, popular eighth grader GiGi trips her in the cafeteria. Lucy then challenges her to a fencing duel: if GiGi wins, Lucy will stay out of her way; if Lucy wins, GiGi will stop bullying her. Though both girls were taught by their father, Lucy only knows fencing basics, while GiGi is the star of the school team. As they prepare, each ruminates on what led them to this moment, and wonders how the battle will affect their relationship. Married collaborators the Bagleys seamlessly blend sports drama with middle school angst in this cleverly constructed graphic novel; chapters begin by introducing fencing concepts that mirror the action, and past events are conveyed in sequences rendered in dreamy blue linework that juxtaposes present-day full-color spreads. Incisive discussions about grief and the importance of support from family and friends—deepened by the contrast between Lucy’s and GiGi’s relationships with their best friends—enhances this already rich story of sisterly rivalry that’s also an earnest love letter to fencing. Ages 8–12. (Nov.)