Two sisters duel out their feelings about each other—literally. Sixth grader Lucy and eighth grader Gigi have a complicated relationship. Their father recently passed away from an unnamed illness, and their mother works all of the time at the local hospital. The sisters’ relationship has gone sour since their father’s death, and both sisters take turns being mean-spirited toward the other. Gigi is on track to be captain of the middle school fencing team, something her father—who had been a fencing instructor himself—would have been proud of. Lucy is determined to beat her older sister, even if it means having to learn to fence secretly in just a few weeks’ time. The sisters must decide if they will end the story by dueling in front of their classmates or by finally discussing their feelings of grief with each other and their mother.
THOUGHTS: While many other books highlight problems between friends or classmates, this is a realistic and fresh look at a struggling sibling relationship. Both sisters can be unlikable at times due to their mean-spirited behaviors; that characteristic only adds to the realism. The unique ways in which people deal with grief are also fully explored in this book through other family characters including the girls’ mother and grandmother. Aside from being a powerful story about grief and familial relationships, this is also a sports story that includes a diverse cast of characters. The author’s note includes that part of Jessixa Bagley’s inspiration for Duel was to share a story about Black female fencers. Recommended as a meaningful story for middle school graphic novel collections. Fans of Raina Telgemeier, Shannon Hale, and Victoria Jamieson will also love Duel.