Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours friends! One gift I’ve received this year has been a newfound love and enjoyment of graphic novels and manga! Over a third of the books I read this year were graphic novels and manga so this list was incredibly hard to narrow down, but somehow I did it! Without further ado, here are my top 10 graphic novels that I read in 2019.
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Summary: “Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”
Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.
“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”
Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
Three Words: thought-provoking, uncomfortable, necessary
Readalikes: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates, I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib, German Calendar No December by Sylvia Ofili
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Summary: Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole…and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.
Three Words: unique, colorful, empowering
Readalikes: Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow, The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson, All Summer Long by Hope Larson
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Summary: In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
Three Words: eye-opening, coming-of-age, introspective
Readalikes: The Bride Was a Boy by Chii, Tomboy by Liz Prince, Wandering Son by Takako Shimura
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks
Summary: Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.
Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.
But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.
Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years…
What if their last shift was an adventure?
Three Words: nostalgic, autumnal, heartwarming
Readalikes: Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau, Check, Please! Book One: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu
Crowded, Vol. 1 by Christopher Sebela, Ted Brandt, & Ro Stein
Summary: Ten minutes in the future, the world runs on an economy of job shares and apps, while crowdfunding has evolved into Reapr: a platform for assassination that’s trickled down from celebrities to everyday life. A world where anyone with enough backers and the money they contribute can kill anyone else. Like Charlie, who up until now has lead a quiet, normal life, until she wakes up to find herself a target with a million dollars on her head. Hunted by all of LA, Charlie hires Vita, the lowest rated bodyguard on the Dfend app. As the campaign picks up and Vita takes out incompetent civilians and assassins on their tail, she and Charlie will have to figure out who wants Charlie dead and why before the campaign’s 30 days or their lives are over.
Three Words: action-packed, funny, colorful
Readalikes: The New World by Ales Kot, The Weatherman by Jody LeHeup, Invisible Kingdom by G. Willow Wilson
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, & Harmony Becker
Summary: Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.
In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.
They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.
Three Words: eye-opening, critical, disheartening
Readalikes: Belonging by Nora Krug, March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell, Uprooted by Albert Marrin
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Summary: Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.
Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.
Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.
Three Words: relatable, beautiful, difficult
Readalikes: Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganacheau, Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer
Summary: For this ragtag band of space gays, liberation means beating the patriarchy at its own game.
Pan’s life used to be very small. Work in her dad’s body shop, sneak out with her friend Tara to go dancing, and watch the skies for freighter ships. It didn’t even matter that Tara was a princess… until one day it very much did matter, and Pan had to say goodbye forever. Years later, when a charismatic pair of off-world gladiators show up on her doorstep, she finds that life may not be as small as she thought. On the run and off the galactic grid, Pan discovers the astonishing secrets of her neo-medieval world… and the intoxicating possibility of burning it all down.
Three Words: female-driven, fantastical, vibrant
Readalikes: Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, & Babs Tarr, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre, On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Summary: Amanda can’t figure out what’s so exciting about kissing. It’s just a lot of teeth clanking, germ swapping, closing of eyes so you can’t see that godzilla-sized zit just inches from your own hormonal monstrosity. All of her seven kisses had been horrible in different ways, but nothing compared to the awfulness that followed Kiss Number Eight. An exploration of sexuality, family, and faith, Kiss Number Eight is a coming-of-age tale filled with humor and hope.
Three Words: coming-of-age, acceptance, relationships
Readalikes: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, & Joy San, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Summary: An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.
Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.
Three Words: dazzling, sensitive, nomadic
Readalikes: Decelerate Blue by Adam Rapp & Mike Cavallaro, Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre
What have been some of your favorite manga and graphic novels that you’ve read this year? Place them in the comments below!
Until next time…