Welcome back to our third and final installment of 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten. Today’s books delve into a seriously wide range of topics: the civil rights movement, canine loyalty, middle school drama (both on and off the stage), and another magnificent super hero reboot.
As far as Top Ten books go, The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell was kind of a no-brainer. Told from the perspective of a young white boy whose family moves into an openly racist neighborhood, this semi-autobiographical story is set during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Houston. The narrative is incredibly tense but peppered with quiet introspective moments, and the deft storytelling easily carries readers through both the personal and political stories. Nate Powell’s ink work is gorgeous and heightens the emotional undercurrents of the story without stealing the spotlight. Said one GGNFT committee member, “This book is ultimately about how difficult it is to be a good person.”
If dog stories make you weepy, you might want to skip Takashi Murakami’s Stargazing Dog, a surprise hit of 2013. Centered around a middle-aged Japanese man unable to keep up with the pace of an increasingly modern world, this poignant little book really resonated with teens. While the adorable and incredibly loyal dog, Happie, may have been the initial draw, teens who read the book and reported to the GGNFT committee universally claimed this as one of their favorite titles of the year due to the emotionally resonant story. The drawing style is clean, straightforward and quite expressive, reflecting the overall tone of the narrative. While the deceptively simple story may invite teens to skim the pages, careful readers will be rewarded with a nuanced exploration of choice and consequences.
After the success of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, it should be no surprise that she’s done it again with her latest book, Drama. This was a solid Top Ten contender from the very beginning due to Telgemeier’s ability to capture through story and artwork the very essence middle school. While Callie lacks the singing talent to land a part in her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she excels in creating backdrops for the musical and is appointed head of set design. Throughout the year, Callie faces plenty of hurdles, not all of them artistic. Navigating the murky world of adolescence and middle school crushes demands as much time as the school play, but Callie rises to the challenge and emerges that much better for it. A “must read” for middle schoolers everywhere.
And last (but definitely not least), we have the first volume in a new Daredevil series. While the comics industry seems to be flooding the market with updated super heroes, Marvel definitely did it right with this reboot. Matt Murdock and his alter-ego are charming, funny and sardonic, leaving at least one GGNFT committee member with a self-proclaimed comic book crush.* The clean, dynamic artwork supports the modern story and characters, making this one highly accessible to teens. This new incarnation is both high quality and innovative and has been well-received in the comics community, making it a worthy Top Ten pick indeed.
YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2014 committee has just started reviewing titles, and field suggestions are encouraged. Have you read a great graphic novel that you think deserves consideration? Suggest it to the committee!
— Summer Hayes, currently reading Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, A Life in Pictures by Sean O’Hagan
* Um… that would be be me. *blush*