BY: Bill Holbrook and H.H. Glynn
PUBLISHER: Hermes Press
In the middle grade graphic novel Dethany and the Other Clique, the eponymous Goth must face the horrors of the middle school social strata. Can she successfully navigate the realities of Safe Havens Middle School intact?
Dethany and the Other Clique is a middle grade graphic novel that’s based on Bill Holbrook’s ongoing daily comic strip, On the Fastrack, which is distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc. and first debuted on March 19th, 1984. The daily newspaper comic follows the employees of Fastrack, Inc.
In 2010, Dethany Dendrobia joined the cast of On the Fastrack, becoming part of the company as an extremely competent assistant who frequently confounds those who make inaccurate judgments about her due to her Goth aesthetic. She quickly became a focal point for the strip, and several of the On the Fastrack collections that have been released since 2010 have included her name in the title.
In 1988, a spin-off comic, Safe Havens, was launched. While that strip did exist in the same world as On the Fastrack (and even included some cross-over characters in the cast), it primarily followed the lives of a group of characters as they progressed through their lives, beginning in the Safe Havens Day Care.
Beginning in 1993, the characters in Safe Havens began aging in real time. This meant that the strip followed them through the education system, including into the complicated social stratosphere of middle school. Eventually, the main characters became the “Other Clique,” the students who didn’t quite fit into any of the school’s pre-established cliques.
In 2018, Safe Havens shifted settings, and the daily strip now focuses on the Fastrack One mission to Mars. The space mission is largely crewed by the next generation of characters from Safe Havens. However, those nostalgic for the previous setting of Safe Havens will be pleased to know that Dethany and the Other Clique is set at Havens Middle School.
Dethany and the Other Clique
Dethany and the Other Clique, which is a collaboration between Holbrook and his daughter, H.H. Glynn, begins with Dethany arriving for her first day at Havens Middle School. As she goes through the requisite paperwork, the central conceit of the graphic novel is laid out for the reader: every student at Havens Middle School must declare a “clique,” which will be a controlling factor in everything from lunchroom seating assignments to school dance attendance.
Although the concept might seem outlandish at first, it hews very close to the experience of many middle school students – while it may not be literally true, it will certainly feel true for some readers. When you’re in middle school, it can seem as though joining a clique is compulsory, and as Dethany soon discovers, once you’ve been pigeonholed, it can be nearly impossible to get the masses to see you any other way.
While Dethany joined the cast of On the Fastrack in 2010 (and was already in her 20s), Dethany and the Other Clique is set at a modern middle school, replete with cell phones and social media. While this means that the graphic novel doesn’t technically align with the chronology of the newspaper strip, this can be easily overlooked – plus, the decision to set the story in a “modern” middle school was a wise one, since it’s hard to imagine any current-day clique story playing out without weighing the effects of our omnipresent electronics (and a key plot point even involves a character demonstrating how to synch a phone with a desktop computer).
Tell me more, tell me more
As you might expect from a graphic novel that spun out of a gag-a-day newspaper strip, there are plenty of jokes in the background and the dialogue of this comic. Anything from a student carrying an anvil instead of a backpack to a climactic Stephen King homage is fair game in Dethany and the Other Clique, and the frequent jokes will ensure readers have plenty to chortle about as they read.
The art is presented in simple black and white, again calling to mind the comic’s daily newspaper antecedents, but also proving to be very well suited to Dethany’s Goth sensibilities and aesthetic. And while a reader unfamiliar with On the Fastrack can easily pick up Deathany and the Other Cliqueand understand it without trouble, devoted readers of Holbrook’s daily strips will be rewarded with some nice Easter eggs.
Plus, Dethany and the Other Clique has some surprising twists that will send readers back to the beginning of the book, where they will be delighted to find that there are details foreshadowing the outcome that had likely been overlooked during their first read-through.
Be sure and follow Dethany on Twitter, which will also help you keep up with her ongoing daily adventures at Fastrack, Inc.!