Wednesday, February 8, 2023

‘Squad’ Review: A Teen Drama That Bites Back

BOOKSBOOK REVIEWS'Squad' Review: A Teen Drama That Bites Back

If Mean Girls and Jennifer’s Body had a baby, that baby would be Squad. Squad follows Becca, a teenager who moves to a new school and immediately finds herself befriending the popular trio of Marley, Arianna, and Mandy. Their lives are like something out of a movie. They’re popular in an effortless way, and Becca is thrilled when they take an interest in her. But the girls have a dark secret. They are secretly werewolves who eat the obnoxious and predatory boys in the surrounding towns. When Becca is offered the chance to be one of them, she takes it, wanting to feel invincible. After all, who doesn’t want the chance to take out a few predators and gain super strength in the bargain? But soon, it becomes clear that there’s more to this crew than meets the eye. Becca’s desperate to belong, but how far will she go to remain a part of this squad?

The most interesting aspect of Squad is the way author Maggie Tokuda-Hall plays with moral gray areas and characters. While the squad’s mission of only eating the worst of the worst predators seems admirable at first, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone in the group has the same metrics for measuring culpability. Becca’s inner conflict between wanting to be a part of something bigger and wanting to stay true to herself is certainly relatable, and the werewolf twist raises the stakes.

Squad is also a victory for representation. The main group is racially diverse, and the impact of microaggressions is explored in their relations both with each other and with outsiders. Becca is a lesbian, and her romance with another character is one sweet spot in an otherwise dark story. One of the more remarkable aspects of Squad is how effective it is at subtle commentary. As it has been since the beginning of the horror genre, Tokuda-Hall uses the supernatural to explore social issues. Having female rage manifest as bloodthirsty werewolves is clever. While the feminist angle might be fairly obvious from its premise, Squad is surprisingly self aware about race and queer identity and how even “well intentioned” people can have biases.

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It’s not surprising that Squad scored a television series before it was even published. The pacing lends itself to a serialized adaptation, with its twists and turns leaving readers guessing. The gorgeous illustrations by Lisa Sterle are reminiscent of the classic Archie Comics, not holding back on the more unsavory aspects of being a teen werewolf while creating a world that looks sleek and modern. You can see how Squad would feel right at home with Riverdale, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, or even Teen Wolf. It’s a worthy addition to the YA creature catalogue, a twisted and fun graphic novel that will draw readers in.

Squad is available now.

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