REVIEW: ‘Forever Home’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Forever Home - But Why Tho?Forever Home is an original graphic novel written and illustrated by Jenna Ayoub for young readers. It is published by KaBOOM!, an imprint of BOOM! Studios. Willow has had to move every two years her whole short life. Her parents are in the military, and unlike other kids, she has never felt like she was from anywhere or had a real home. But her parents promise this move is the last and that the Hadleigh House will be their forever home. However, the house’s resident ghosts would like to see things go differently.

Whether it’s the part about moving around a lot, not feeling like you belong, or feeling like your parents don’t understand you, Forever Home has an array of axes upon which young readers can connect to Willow. Most of all, though, she is totally unflappable in the face of her new home’s ghosts.

Four spirits inhabit the home: Viola and Gladys, the eponymous Hadleigh sisters; Thomas, an 18-year-old who dies in World War I; and Lady, a widow several times over. Despite the sisters’ many attempts to scare the family off, which they do more for fun than any other reason, Willow is never scared, only determined. She will not let the ghosts make her family move out of their forever home.

I wish the book had just a little bit more of an on-ramp to get readers connected to Willow on her own before thrusting her into this paranormal conundrum. But once the ball is rolling, I like the way it moves. It has so much heart and character, both in concept and in the way that its characters interact with each other in such a matter-of-fact and eternally accepting way. For kids coming into Forever Home feeling lonely, I hope they can recognize the way everyone accepts one another for who they are, ghost, human, or otherwise and strive to emulate that.

The funny moments are generally funny, and the learning moments are well-learned. As Willow learns the truth about each of the house’s ghosts, she is never for an instant judgemental, except for one instance in an acceptably comedic moment. She simply immediately accepts the stories and acknowledges that this house isn’t just her home; it’s the ghosts’ home too.

Most ghost stories are about righting the wrongs of the past so the ghosts can move on. In Forever Home, it’s about the opposite. It’s about accepting that some things are just the way they are and learning to embrace them. Especially for a kid whose whole childhood so far has been about change and how it has affected her, it’s a really strong message. It’s equally strong seeing Willow’s parents as a part of this journey as well. Rather than standing in Willow’s way as she fights to keep the house for herself, they become a part of that process. It’s good to see examples of parents as supporters in children’s media rather than the antagonists they often are set up to be.

One bit that bothered me was how Thomas is chided for running off to the army as a kid only to die for a glory his family never even enjoyed for him, but her parents are in the military. There is a lot to be said about how Willow’s entire childhood has been shaped around both of her parents being in the military, constantly moving her around, and putting their own lives at significant risk. The fact the book goes out of its way to poke holes at Thomas but makes no effort to comment on Willow’s parents is an odd choice to me.

The art is splendid in Forever Home. Willow is the only character drawn with full eyes in most panels, making it clear she is the center of attention and allowing her to become the most empathetic character. The other characters, though, even with their smaller facial features, are drawn with very expressive faces that help telegraph exactly how everyone feels at any given time, a key to illustration for young readers. I also appreciate how the speech bubbles are colored black for the ghosts with ghostly tails at their ends, while the speech for the living is a standard white. It helps add some character while also making it easier to tell who is speaking when things do occasionally get cluttered for the sake of trying to make the text larger.

Along with the several pages of great classroom lesson ideas and Common Core curricula, Forever Home is a familiar and relatable story with a number of twists on the formula that make it a valuable read for any kid feeling like they don’t belong anywhere.

Forever Home is available now wherever comics are sold and at booksellers on February 23rd.

Forever Home
4

TL;DR

Along with the several pages of great classroom lesson ideas and Common Core curricula, Forever Home is a familiar and relatable story with a number of twists on the formula that make it a valuable read for any kid feeling like they don’t belong anywhere.