Today I’m so pleases to share the top 10 graphic novels I read this year! In a year when reading became near impossible for me, graphic novels were my saving grace! Truly I’ve been wrapped in the comfort of their art and text, and here were the ten that most captivated me!
Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Tremain, & Max Sarin
Summary: Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.
Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird.
Thoughts: People have been recommending this series to me for ages and it took a reading sprint challenge to finally pick it up…and I absolutely devoured it. From page one, I fell deep in love and like with these characters, their shenanigans, the writing, and the art, and I’m sad to see it come to its end soon. Truly when people say read this series- listen.
Readalikes: Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin & Noah Hayes
Fangs by Sarah Andersen
Summary: Elsie the vampire is three hundred years old, but in all that time, she has never met her match. This all changes one night in a bar when she meets Jimmy, a charming werewolf with a wry sense of humor and a fondness for running wild during the full moon. Together they enjoy horror films and scary novels, shady strolls, fine dining (though never with garlic), and a genuine fondness for each other’s unusual habits, macabre lifestyles, and monstrous appetites.
First featured as a webcomic series on Tapas, Fangs chronicles the humor, sweetness, and awkwardness of meeting someone perfectly suited to you but also vastly different. Filled with Sarah Andersen’s beautiful gothic illustrations and relatable relationship humor, Fangs has all the makings of a cult classic.
Thoughts: I love Sarah Scribbles so I had a sneaking suspicion I would love this one from Sarah Andersen- and it most certainly did NOT disappoint. The relationship and the characters were fun and precious, and as always the cartoon style was simple and accessible. Though it’s short, this one is certainly a winner and I’m soon to be buying a copy to own!
Readalikes: When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll, Kim Reaper by Sarah Graley, Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar
Grease Bats by Archie Bongiovanni
Summary: Andy and Scout are best buds, roommates, and gay disasters. Along with their friends and plenty of beer, they’re just trying to make it through their 20s, survive late capitalism, and navigate the dating world.
Tough and loving Andy is a genderqueer trans individual, who dates like there’s no tomorrow, while Scout, an all-feelings-all-the-time mistake-maker, is still languishing over her ex-girlfriend…from like two years ago.
Thoughts: This volume was a laugh a panel, really. It’s utterly impossible to not fall in love with each of these wonderful, unique characters and the relationships they have with each other, and any queer pal should pick this up quick!
Readalikes: The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, Be Gay, Do Comics edited by The Nib, Kim & Kim by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, & Claudia Aguirre
Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim
Summary: Grass is a powerful antiwar graphic novel, telling the life story of a Korean girl named Okseon Lee who was forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War—a disputed chapter in twentieth-century Asian history.
Beginning in Lee’s childhood, Grass shows the lead-up to the war from a child’s vulnerable perspective, detailing how one person experienced the Japanese occupation and the widespread suffering it entailed for ordinary Koreans. Keum Suk Gendry-Kim emphasizes Lee’s strength in overcoming the many forms of adversity she experienced. Grass is painted in a black ink that flows with lavish details of the beautiful fields and farmland of Korea and uses heavy brushwork on the somber interiors of Lee’s memories.
The cartoonist Gendry-Kim’s interviews with Lee become an integral part of Grass, forming the heart and architecture of this powerful nonfiction graphic novel and offering a holistic view of how Lee’s wartime suffering changed her. Grass is a landmark graphic novel that makes personal the desperate cost of war and the importance of peace.
Thoughts: This is a superb and haunting graphic novel memoir- almost a year later and it still occupies a corner of my mind. The art, the thick and hurried lines, really conveyed the true horrors that this story and the person it features underwent. This is another forgotten story that needs to be told…and needs to continue being told. My heart broke, but I’m so thankful for both the author and Okseon Lee for sharing these experiences with the world.
Readalikes: A Game for Swallows: to Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached, Fax from Sarajevo by Joe Kubert, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
Summary: Snap’s town had a witch.
At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a Crocs-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.
Snap needs a favor from this old woman, though, so she begins helping Jacks with her strange work. Snap gets to know her and realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic–and an unlikely connection to Snap’s family’s past.
Thoughts: Kat Leyh is my ace superhero so when I saw she had come out with her first solo graphic novel, I had to have it…and boy it DELIVERED. Snapdragon is the sassy, full-of-life heroine I love to see, and the story was both quirky and beautiful. This is one I wish I could read for the first time again, and I’m excited to see what comes next from Kat.
Readalikes: The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, & Grace Ellis, Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Summary: Real life isn’t a fairytale.
But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through?
Is there a way to tell them he’s gay?
A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what—we can all have our own happy endings.
Thoughts: JG over at @theroguerecommender placed this on their best of 2020 so I just had to check it out- and it did not disappoint. The art is truly some of the best I’ve seen this year and the story is heartwarming and gripping- I can’t wait to see what Trung Le Nguyen comes out with next.
Readalikes: Flamer by Mike Curato, Our Dreams at Dusk by Yukhi Kamatani, The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Summary: From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.
After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.
Thoughts: Yes, I hadn’t read this one before and yes, I’m ashamed of that fact…because it was just as cute and precious as you all have said! After Dewdrop I knew I had to have more Katie O’Neill in my life and after this, I expect I’ll make quick work of the remainder of the series!
Readalikes: Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez, The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag, Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu
Heartstopper, Vol. 1 by Alice Oseman
Summary: Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.
They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…
Thoughts: What is there to say about Heartstopper, truly? There’s a reason it’s a Bookstagram darling and a teen favorite- it’s so flipping cute! From the illustrations to the characters to the EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, this one is a winner on all fronts and I am desperately clutching for the next volumes to see where Charlie and Nick go next- Alice Oseman definitely has my heart.
Readalikes: Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau, Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks, Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Something is Killing the Children, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV & Werther Dell’Edera
Summary: IT’S THE MONSTERS WHO SHOULD BE AFRAID.
When the children of Archer’s Peak—a sleepy town in the heart of America—begin to go missing, everything seems hopeless. Most children never return, but the ones that do have terrible stories—impossible details of terrifying creatures that live in the shadows. Their only hope of finding and eliminating the threat is the arrival of a mysterious stranger, one who believes the children and claims to be the only one who sees what they can see.
Her name is Erica Slaughter. She kills monsters. That is all she does, and she bears the cost because it must be done.
Thoughts: Since I loved James Tynion IV’s previous work, I had been wanting to get my hands on this one (and spoiler alert: I absolutely loved it)! This story mashed up many of my favorite things: horror, strong female characters, conspiracies, and beautiful art. Seriously, I cannot wait to read more of this series- it’s an excellent adventure for those who love Stranger Things or just want to lose themselves in a beautiful and haunting graphic novel series.
Readalikes: Once & Future by Kieron Gillen & Dan Mora, Outcast by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta, Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, & Dave Stewart
Go With the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
Summary: Good friends help you go with the flow. Best friends help you start a revolution.
Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen.
Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs―or worse, squirms―at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices.
Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?
Thoughts: I picked this one up because the authors/artists were going to be at C2E2 the same time I was, and it really didn’t disappoint! This is such a necessary read for guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, and I truly wish I had it as a teen (since I deal with PCOS and didn’t realize the symptoms and thought really terrible things about myself because of it???). Between the minimalist color palette, the art, and the strong portrayal of female friendships, I absolutely adored this one.
Readalikes: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg, Girls Can’t Hit by T.S. Easton, Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson & Ellen Hagan
What graphic novels have you loved this year? Share them in the comments below!
Tomorrow I hope to share my top 10 young adult books, so until next time…