In case you hadn’t heard of or read any of the new Squirrel Girl comics by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, first off, hunt them down like a squirrel seeking acorns, okay? Second of all, whereas the Squirrel Girl comics start with SG moving into college and meeting her new roommate, the Squirrel Girl novels by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale are set in SG’s high school years. Instead of heading to uni for the first time, Squirrel Girl, also known as Doreen Green, is heading into a new state, a new city, and a new school. Make that, her first school ever.
And, Doreen very much hopes, this will be where she finds her first best friend. Her first best friend that isn’t a squirrel, that is.
It turns out that making friends is surprisingly hard. Her classmates are weird. And not very interested in being friends. Go figure!
Ana Sofia sighed. “I can’t understand you. Besides, I’d rather sit alone.”
Doreen’s heart felt as if it were curling up, a snail pulling back inside its shell. She tried to say, That’s cool, whatever, but she couldn’t seem to get her voice to work. Besides, Ana Sofia had looked back at her math textbook. Because apparently her math textbook was a vast improvement over Doreen Green.
Spoiler alert, this state of affairs doesn’t last. At least, not as pertains to one Ana Sofia Arcos Romero, who semi-reluctantly becomes Doreen’s best (human) friend. Doreen’s new best (squirrel) friend is Tippy-Toe, local boss of the tree squirrels and queen of attitude. That attitude is needed! Shady Oaks is not the nicest town around. First of all, there are the LARPers. LARPers with a closed group and not a lot of time for anybody else. There are the feral dogs. (Um, literal. feral. dogs.) There are the Somebodies at school, who don’t acknowledge nobodies if the nobodies speak first. There is the Skunk Club. (No, not a club celebrating skunks. That would be cool. These are teenage boys who repel boredom with petty vandalism. Not cool.) Oh, and there’s this MM person who has laid a series of lethal squirrel traps around town. Definitely not cool.
This is the story of the birth of a superhero. Not the literal birth. The part where a mostly-ordinary human allows herself to know that she can use her powers to make change for the good — that tentative, extraordinarily hopeful stepping into the name she has always secretly called herself, and kept a secret because this identity is too precious, too precarious to be shared. Until now.
FYI, this book is a solid example of how to use texting in a book. Doreen’s texted conversations with Ana Sofia, with her mum, and (hilariously) with certain of the Avengers build character as they move the plot and add comedy. (Not joking about that part. You will laugh out loud.)
More reasons to read Squirrel Meets World:
- Doreen is both indefatigable and buoyant. Her spirits just keep soaring. Incurably optimistic is the phrase, except that that implies that optimism needs to be cured instead of, I don’t know, a serum. Like Dr. Erskine’s SuperSoldier serum. Or a modern day vaccine.
- Ana Sofia, staunch best friend, computers genius, and trilingual smarty fluent in ASL (Ana Sofia is deaf), Spanish, and English. Also fluent in high school and LARP-ish and she’s smart enough to figure out what Tippy-Toe means, despite not knowing a word of Chitterspeak.
- The squirrels. Their absolute devotion to babies, especially human babies. And very specifically, the full two pages of squirrel names that Doreen lists off when Ana Sofia asks.
- The antics these three powers get up too.
- The LARPers:
“Wait,” said Vin.
Two others unrolled a ten-foot parchment and held it up like a banner. In fancy, inky calligraphy were the huge wordsL
We Begeth Your Forgiveness
“Um… you’re sorry?” asked Ana Sofia.
Vin shrugged. “Yes, but we’re sorry…”
Ana Sofia couldn’t make out the last part. She shook her head. “You’re sorry what?”
“We’re sorry,” Vin said, then finger-spelled the word medievally.
Ana Sofia couldn’t help smiling.
- The grassroots change in Shady Oaks. That’s kind of the real point of the superheroes, isn’t it? Not that they fight for humans, but they are a reminder and an inspiration (and, in the fictional realms where they exist, a helper) of the human potential for good, and for doing good together.
- The absurd BUT ALSO SLIGHTLY SCARY villain.
- Doreen’s footnotes. Yes, she leaves footnotes in many chapters.
- Doreen’s mercy.
- Her love for She-Hulk and the other Avengers.
- Her parents, and how extremely obvious their love for her is and their commitment to her happiness and health, in both the long- and short-term.
- Social media. There is, naturally, a Baddit (Reddit for supervillains), including a Hydra Hopefuls subgroup, where wannabe baddies post about, even livestream, their exploits in the hope that their foul deeds will catch the eye of a recruiter. There’s also the unfortunate side of social media, as SG finds out as events escalate.
- THE TEXTING.
- How hopeful this story is. The friendships. The new alliances.
“Thor, honestly,” said Black Widow. “I can’t take you anywhere.”
He smiled sheepishly and shrugged. “Is yon disturbance settled?” asked Thor. “Didst we miss the battle?”
I can’t wait to read the next book!