Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up by Heather Corinna, Isabella Rotman, and Luke B. Howard
Limerence Press / Oni Press
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Wait, What? is the perfect title for tweens and younger teens to explore and learn about changing bodies, relationships, and what it means to grow up. This title represents a diverse cast as they talk about love, sex, puberty, and more. With realistic illustrations, Wait, What? does not shy away from tough topics or uncomfortable looks at the human body.
This title is perfect for a library’s puberty collection or graphic novel collection as it is great in both realms. This is a great introductory overview about realistic body image and expectations without being preachy or condescending. Though teens might look and giggle at the illustrations of penises and vaginas, they are also learning that each body is different and works on a different timeline. Though middle school is the best age for this title, do not be shy in putting it in a high school library as not every teen comes with the same base knowledge of sex and relationships and not every teen’s body is on the same timeline.
This title pairs well with A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disabilities by A. Andrews and A Quick & Easy Guide to Consent by Isabella Rotman and Luke Howard.
What We Don’t Talk About by Charlot Kristensen
Avery Hill Publishing
Publication Date: August 12, 2020
Author and illustrator Charlot Kristensen brings to life the story of Farai and her boyfriend, Adam. Farai and Adam have been dating for about two years, but Farai has never met Adam’s parents. But this weekend will change all that as they travel to stay with Charles and Martha in Adam’s childhood home. Farai starts noticing comments, criticisms, and false assumptions directed at her and others based on race, religion, and ethnicity as she spends more time getting to know Adam’s parents. Yet, when Farai stands up for herself after days of experiencing blatant bigotry and racism, she finds that both Adam and his parents see nothing wrong with how they’ve chosen to address her or other people of color in society. This lack of support from her boyfriend of two years feels unbelievable to Farai, and she soon decides to take her life into her own hands and define her own happiness.
The beautiful and colorful illustrations perfectly compliment this tragic and heartbreaking story. It seems like it would be difficult to show what isolation feels like, but Kristensen does exactly that with her stunning and touching illustrations. Sunlight plays a big part in the story and is often the defining aspect of many panels. Farai is a strong and confident character who is the true sunlight amidst all the hatefulness. What We Don’t Talk About is an unbelievably important story that shows how the silence of people—familiars or strangers—affects people of color every day.
Recommend this to fans of Ben Passmore’s Your Black Friend and Other Strangers, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, and Ebony Flowers’s Hot Comb.
Blue Period, vol. 1 by Tsubasa Yamaguchi
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
Yatora Yaguchi is a popular high school student who is seemingly floating through life. He has good grades, plenty of friends, and more than enough charm. But when he comes across a mesmerizing painting one day, Yatora is shaken out of his complacent existence and finds a love for art awakening inside him. Driven, he pursues art—and art school—with a single-minded passion, meeting other students along the way who are just as obsessed.
Yamaguchi’s art is nicely rendered with deep blacks and fine lines, and readers will find themselves immersed in this realistic art school world. Each student’s artwork is cleverly created by different artists so their styles remain distinctive to each character. Yatora’s arduous journey to find his way and develop his skills will resonate with teens embarking upon adulthood and facing new adventures and life choices.
Yatora’s art school travails will interest fans of autobiographical comics like Akiko Higashimura’s Blank Canvas and Natalie Nourigat’s I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation. Readers looking for art-adjacent YA fiction may also enjoy Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper, Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, and Ibi Zoboi and Dr. Yusef Salaam’s Punching the Air.