Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeYuen Pham
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Shannon heads into sixth grade full of confidence and hope for the best year ever. Her best friend Jen is the most popular girl in school, and Shannon’s friends “The Group” are ready to rule the school at her side. But the final year of middle school soon turns into a minefield of dos and dont’s, and Shannon struggles to keep up with what’s cool and what’s not. Some boys are cute; some boys are weird. This TV show is a must-watch; this song is lame. Prank calls are funny; playground games are for babies. Girls should be pretty; girls should not be goofy. Shannon finds it nearly impossible to guess the right way to act and the rights things to say, and pressure to fit in with the in-crowd sends her anxiety levels through the roof. Stepping out from Jen’s shadow might be the only way for Shannon to be true to herself—even if it means admitting that her best friends aren’t the right friends anymore.
Shannon Hale plumbs the depths of middle-school angst and awkwardness with honesty, sincerity, and compassion—both for her past self and for her current young adult readers. LeUyen Pham’s gentle, expressive art captures young Shannon at her most awkward, her most anxious, and her most hopeful moments. Though the intended audience is the younger side of teenage readership, Best Friends reveals an adolescent experience that is timeless and universal. Pair with Hale and Pham’s first collaboration Real Friends and other middle school graphic novels by Jen Wang, Rana Telgemeier, Svetlana Chmakova, and Victoria Jamieson.
The Unstoppable Wasp: Unlimited, vol. 1: Fix Everything by Jeremy Whitley and Gurihiru
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Nadia Van Dyne and the other girl geniuses of G.I.R.L. Labs have been proving their worth as a new superhero team. With the help of Nadia’s stepmom Janet, G.I.R.L. Labs looks to be on the horizon of expansion with the new investors Janet secures. But when a new group of scientific girl genius super-villains starts attacking local labs, the girls of G.I.R.L. must band together to stop this threat from terrorizing the city—and tearing their newfound family apart.
While the science and action of this volume live up to the entertaining high quality of the series, it’s the relationships between Nadia, the other the girls of G.I.R.L. Labs, and their adult mentors/ guardians that really shines in this volume. Nadia’s kindness, intelligence, and protectiveness cause her to overcompensate to keep her newfound family safe when their lives are in danger to the detriment of her own mental and physical well being. Whitley gently explores the terror of living in the shadow of mental illness and ways to support loved ones suddenly struggling with their mental health, even when their loved one is pushing away those she cares for the most. Gurihiu’s illustrations perfectly showcase this struggle, highlighting Nadia’s fatigue and the anguish of her loved ones seeing her pain. A must-read for fans of The Unstoppable Wasp series, hand to readers looking for a good female science-focused superhero story, such as Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Brandon Montclare and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North.
Penny Nichols by MK Reed
Top Shelf Productions
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Twenty-six-year-old Penny Nichols works temp jobs and takes heat from her yuppie sister for her life choices. When Penny meets some horror filmmakers and their circle of friends, crew, and actors, her life changes in ways she couldn’t have imagined.
Although Penny is a little older than our target audience, this book is about finding oneself and one’s passions. A lot of teens today are expected to know what they want to do with their lives at seventeen or eighteen years old and to be frank, that’s unrealistic. This book shows that one can take some time finding one’s true calling and a non-traditional path isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Penny Nichols is a read-alike for Cannonball by Kelsey Wroten and the manga Our Dreams at Dusk by Yuhki Kamatani. This book is a great companion piece to the recent coming-of-age films Izzie Gets the F*ck Across Town (2018) and Booksmart (2019).