Compass South was originally published in 2016, and I hadn’t heard about it until the awesome folks over at :01 First Second Books invited me to join the blog tour for the sequel, Knife’s Edge. Also, I really hadn’t been into graphic novels until very recently, so I guess that’s another reason I hadn’t heard of it. But now that I’m obsessed with graphic novels, I jumped on the chance to check this out – I mean, face it – a middle grade graphic novel adventure that features pirates, twins, and secrets? Yes, please – sign me up!
Twins Alex and Cleo are twelve years old, and they are essentially abandoned by a father who leaves on a job and never returns. After waiting for a few weeks, they realize that something horrible must have happened and that he isn’t coming back, and they decide to take up an offer in the newspaper about a man looking to find his twin boys, both of whom have red hair. The man is offering a reward, and they figure hey, why not? They don’t have anything to lose, and they’re down on their luck, so Cleo cuts off her hair and the two decide to board a ship and head to San Francisco. So the twins sell off their old gang boss’s identity (they were a part of the Black Hook Gang, completing robberies and the like), and in exchange will receive passage to New Orleans, where they can begin a new life. Since they want to get to San Francisco, they decide that this is good for now – they can complete the journey on their own.
Unfortunately, they meet up with another set of twins who have the same idea, and Alex and Cleo get separated from each other – and the other set of twins get separated as well. Alex is kidnapped and thrown on a ship, where he is forced to work, while Cleo becomes a stowaway on another ship, hoping that she will meet Alex at the end of their journeys.
All through this, we see glimpses of the Black Hook Gang and how they are after both Alex and Cleo, looking for them and the two items that they hold dear – a pocket watch and a knife, from their mother, before she died. Avoiding these people is difficult, and when they get separated and are forced to do what they can to survive, it becomes a really fun and interesting adventure.
This is such a fun story, and it worked out amazingly well as a graphic novel. It was the kind of fun that keeps you at the edge of your seat and allows you to use your own mind to slowly put the pieces of the puzzle together. The twins are great characters and the story goes back and forth between Alex and Cleo. It’s easy to follow, and the twists and turns keep it interesting and exciting through the very last page.
I loved both Alex and Cleo as characters. Alex is a hardworking, steadfast character who knows what he wants, and Cleo is loyal and, at the same time, independent. She does what needs to be done. I think that the way her character was written will definitely draw in a lot of readers – middle grade readers especially will rejoice when they have the chance to read an enthralling and exciting story about these two.
The artwork in Compass South was beautifully done – I really love Rebecca Mock’s style and the way that she was able to really make her characters come to life through her art. The images and the story meshed so well together and were both so full of life. This is the very first middle grade graphic novel that I’ve read, and I can’t wait to pick up more!
Compass South was such a delight to read – the story was a complete adventure from the very beginning until the last page, and I’m thrilled that the sequel is soon to be published as well, giving us a chance to see what happens in the lives of Alex and Cleo after the end of Compass South.