Written by: Varian Johnson
Illustrated by: Shannon Wright
Publisher: Scholastic Graphix
In Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright, identical twin sisters Maureen and Francine have just entered sixth grade. Historically inseparable, when they arrive at O’Conner Middle School for the first day of school it quickly becomes clear that something is amiss. Is an administrative error the actual reason their schedules are such that they don’t have any classes together, or is there some other reason for the division?
Realistic, complex characters
All of the characters in Twins feel so alive that they might walk off the page (at the very least, one gets the sense that their lives continue when you close the book). In part, this is likely due to the personal nature of the narrative. As Johnson explained in the SDCC ’20 Graphix panel, like Maureen and Francine, he himself is a twin, with his identical brother being born five minutes before him. And just like the eponymous Twins of the graphic novel, their school schedules were identical, too – until middle school, at least.
The story of Twins concerns a Black family, and during that panel, Johnson noted that he and his editors agreed that it was important to have a co-creator who was Black.
As Wright elaborated on the topic during the panel, she explained that Maureen and Francine gave her a chance to see herself in comics in a way that she hadn’t before.
The amount of effort put into finding the right creative team for Twins pays off in a big way for readers, and an integral part of the reason you are about to hear a lot about this book – and considering the popularity of middle grade graphic novels, it is certain poised to make a splash.
You have to see Twins
Visually, every page of Twins is a delight. Wright clearly approached the layout of each page of this comic with care, and the thoughtfulness that went into the design of every panel is evident. One of the tools that Wright relies on repeatedly, and to great effect, is symmetry.
Within the first dozen pages of the graphic novel, the reader is treated to multiple pages that visually expand on the idea of Maureen and Francine as foils to one another, with the two twins alternating between symmetrical panels, creating excellent and engaging interplay between the characters. Then, as it becomes clear that all is not well between the two siblings, the balance of the panels begins to shift off-kilter.
And symmetry is far from the only visual delight in this book with splash pages featuring paper doll-style designs that showcase the personality differences between the identical twins and a map of the cafeteria bisected Family Circus-style by dotted line showing Maureen’s navigation. Another page offers a visualization of the social dynamics of the twins’ friends, an especially interesting way of conveying the impending threat to the steadiness of Maureen’s “friendship-mobile.”
Wright’s art also excels at conveying the characters’ emotions, which is essential to a story about two siblings learning to navigate both their own and each other’s increasingly complicated feelings.
Twins has a world that feels real
On top of the verisimilitude in the characters, the world they inhabit also feels fully fleshed-out. In addition to the halls of O’Conner Middle School, we also get to see a scene set at the local mall – especially exciting because of the fantastic comedic names that the stores have been given (my personal favorite: “Temporarily 22”).
But perhaps my favorite set is Maureen and Francine’s shared bedroom, which is filled with meaningful details that demonstrate just how alive the characters who inhabit it really are.
You’re going to want to read this again
It is clear from every panel that Johnson and Wright have poured their hearts into the book, and the final product is a comic that you’ll want to start over from the beginning as soon as you’ve reached the last page. Twins is sure to swiftly become one of your favorite graphic novels – don’t waste any time getting ahold of this one.
Twins is available today from your local bookstore or public library.