Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
The Strange Ones by Jeremy Jusay
Gallery 13 / Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
A serendipitous meeting at a Belly concert in Manhattan between Anjeline and Franck, two loner teens in NYC in the early 1990s, leads to an epic friendship and much more. As they journey back and forth to Staten Island, they bond over music, family, and ennui. We see their relationship develop, and their loner armor slowly begins to melt.
The storytelling draws you in on the first page with characters so real, you’d swear you knew them in high school, or wish you did. The black-ink line artwork helps to tell the story with occasional heavy starkness; other times a whimsical lightness that belies the undercurrent of regret and loss, elevating this title from meet-cute to masterpiece.
Hand it to fans of Love and Rockets, In Waves, and modern YA prose such as As Many Nows as I Can Get, and The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig.
Witch Hat Atelier, vol. 4 by Kamome Shirahama
Publication Date: November 19, 2019
In volume four of Witch Hat Atelier, two of Coco’s fellow apprentices are ready for the next step toward earning their witch’s hat. Qifrey and the girls travel to the grounds where the Sincerity of the Shield test will be held. To pass the test, the apprentices must take their new feathery friend to its nesting ground on the other side of the cave. However, to get there, they must travel through a winding road full of magical challenges placed along the way. The group must finish together and one witch-in-training from outside of Qifrey’s atelier has failed the test twice before. Just as the apprentices are showing confidence, a Brimmed Cap shows up lurking in the shadows.
Like the previous volumes, volume four ends in a cliffhanger, leaving readers wanting more. Will the apprentices make it through their test? Will they be able to escape the Brimmed Cap unscathed? Shirahama’s illustrations are also consistently beautiful and meticulous, never losing any of its detail in the artwork throughout this volume. The series continues to be an adventure story that engages the reader and keeps us in anticipation of what’s next.
The engrossing adventure and thrilling suspense makes this a read that will appeal to teens of all ages that enjoy fast-paced adventure stories. Readers that enjoy this series may like the manga series Made in Abyss by Akihito Tsukushi, which contain adventures and mysteries of the abyss, along with charming and compelling art.
The Avant-Guards, vol. 2 by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes
BOOM! Box / BOOM! Studios
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
In this volume, the Avant-Guards’ winning streak ends and Liv loses her will to captain the team. The team does their best to cheer up their captain, Liv and Charlie get close, and readers meet Jay’s partner Tyler.
The characters feel more fleshed out than they did in volume one. Usdin gives each character a time to shine throughout the four issues that make up this volume. The Avant-Guards takes what would normally be heavy-handed messages, such as learning to lose, ignoring unattainable expectations, and being yourself, and turns them into engaging stories where the character building takes center stage. Hayes’s art is gorgeous and lends itself well to highlighting the book’s diverse cast of LGBTQ+ characters.
Excellent graphic novel read-alikes include Fence by C.S. Pacat, Cosmoknights by Hannah Templar, and Carly Usdin’s work on Heavy Vinyl. Teens who enjoy this graphic novel might also enjoy Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan and the Freeform series Grown-ish.
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