Title: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World
Author: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publisher: Marvel Press
Publication Date: February 7 2017
Hardcover: 320 Pages
WHO RUNS THE WORLD? SQUIRRELS! Fourteen-year-old Doreen Green moved from sunny California to the suburbs of New Jersey. She must start at a new school, make new friends, and continue to hide her tail. Yep, Doreen has the powers of . . . a squirrel! After failing at several attempts to find her new BFF, Doreen feels lonely and trapped, liked a caged animal. Then one day Doreen uses her extraordinary powers to stop a group of troublemakers from causing mischief in the neighborhood, and her whole life changes. Everyone at school is talking about it! Doreen contemplates becoming a full-fledged Super Hero. And thus, Squirrel Girl is born! She saves cats from trees, keeps the sidewalks clean, and dissuades vandalism. All is well until a real-life Super Villain steps out of the shadows and declares Squirrel Girl his archenemy. Can Doreen balance being a teenager and a Super Hero? Or will she go . . . NUTS?
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): paperback
For those who don’t know, Squirrel Girl is a marvel super-heroine who first debuted in the 90s as a light-hearted, invincible heroine and has been appearing on other heroes’ comic on and off for decades. In 2015, Marvel launched her own series, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, written by Ryan North and drawn by Erica Henderson.
Squirrel Girl is known for her unquestionable optimism and unfailing light-heartedness as well as for being literally unbeatable: she has confronted most of Marvel’s supervillains and defeated them all using her squirrel powers and her powers of persuasion. As of now, the ongoing comics is still going strong and I talked about my love for it previously.
Enter The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, Squirrel Girl’s utterly delightful origin story as a Middle Grade novel.
In it, Doreen Green is a fourteen-year-old girl who just moved from California to New Jersey and is about to start a new school, anxiously hoping to fit in, make new friends and check out the local squirrel population. Doreen Green is not a regular pre-teen: she has a tail which she must keep hidden at all times (according to her mom, because they don’t want other kids to be jealous of it), claws, the ability to communicate with squirrels and as it just so happens the relative strength and speed of those furry little animals. If moving, starting a new school and trying to find a new BFF wasn’t difficult enough, Doreen soon finds herself entangled in local events: troublemakers and vandalism, not to mention that she keeps finding traps for squirrels. Is it possible that there is a supervillain in the making? Someone who might become Squirrel Girl’s arch-nemesis?
What will Doreen Girl do?
This novel is for lack of a better word: perfect. It perfectly transports Squirrel Girl from comic to novel and it encapsulates not only Squirrel-Girl-the-superheroine but it also does so in the context of an origin story for kids. In other words: it works as a superhero story, as a middle grade novel and as an origin/coming-of-age story.
Doreen is a happy, optimistic, friendly girl who sees the best in people. Although she is incredibly strong and fast (and this novel shows her testing the limits of her super-powers) , it should not be left unsaid that perhaps her greatest power is the power of persuasion: Squirrel Girl often talks her enemies down from doing stupid things, which is both hilarious but also incredibly vital to her character.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World is as delightful as the comic is and just like it, it includes footnotes and text messages with other superheroes AND hilarious cameos by Black Widow, Thor, Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocket as well as Doreen’s greatest idol, She-Hulk. There are also messages between her and her parents – and they are SO funny. In fact, her relationship with them is brilliant as they are supportive of her dreams of super-heroism.
This is a story about Doreen turning into Squirrel Girl and embracing the name and the responsibility it brings. But it’s also a story about a little girl who wants to find friends. One of the biggest storylines is Doreen burgeoning friendship with another girl, Ana Sofía. Ana Sofía is deaf and one of the greatest things is to see Doreen learning ASL so they can communicate effectively (along with text messaging and lip reading). But Ana Sofía is no mere sidekick: she has her own storyline as a detective-in-the-making and her own viewpoint chapters. Doreen has another new friend, someone folks who read the comics will know very well: the squirrel Tippy Toe. And it is with the utmost delight that I report that there are Tippy Toe viewpoint chapters and they are fan-freaking-tastic.
Because of its tone and the fact that this is a novel for kids focusing on girls, I fully expect people to look down on it, because that is the messed-up way of our world. But this is a story of girls being clever, assertive, powerful and accomplished and I can’t think of anything more important than that.
To quote Doreen herself, this novel is a “fuzzy ball of fantasticalism” and I am enthusiastically recommending it to everybody.
Rating: 10 – Perfection
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