2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

2021 Great Graphic Novels Top Ten

The 2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list is now available!

The list consists of 126 titles selected from 145 official nominations, which were posted and discussed in blog posts on The Hub. The books, recommended for those aged 12-18, meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens. View the full list.

In addition to the full list, the blogging team chose the following titles as its top ten:

  • Almost American Girl by Robin Ha. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9780062685094.
  • Blue Flag by Kaito. 
    • Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781974713011. 
    • Vol. 2. VIZ Media. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781974713028. 
    • Vol. 3. VIZ Media. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781974713035. 
    • Vol. 4. VIZ Media. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781974713042. 
    • Vol. 5. VIZ Media. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781974713059. 
  • Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill. Oni Press. 2020. $19.99. ISBN: 9781549303357. 
  • Go With the Flow by Karen Schneemann, art by Lily Williams. First Second / Macmillan. 2020. $21.99. ISBN: 9781250305725.
  • Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison by Sarah Mirk, art by Gerardo Alba, Kasia Babis, Alex Beguez, Tracy Chahwan, Nomi Kane, et al. Abrams ComicsArts / Abrams Books. 2020. $24.99. ISBN: 9781419746901. 
  • The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, art by DaNi. Hill House Comics / DC Comics. 2020. $22.99. ISBN: 9781779504524. 
  • The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. Random House Graphic / Penguin Random House. 2020. $16.99. ISBN: 9780593125298. 
  • Snapdragon by Kat Leyh. First Second / Macmillan. 2020. $12.99. ISBN: 9781250171115. 
  • Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru. DC Comics. 2020. $16.99. ISBN: 9781779504210. 
  • Wonder Twins by Mark Russell, art by Stephen Byrne.
    • Vol. 1: Activate! Wonder Comics / DC Comics. 2019. $16.99. ISBN: 9781401294649. 
    • Vol. 2: The Rise and Fall of the Wonder Twins. Wonder Comics / DC Comics. 2020. $16.99. ISBN: 9781779501790. 

The suggestion form for the 2022 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list is open. If you’d like to suggest a title to the blogging team for consideration as a nominee, please fill out the form.

YALSA’s portfolio of book and media awards helps strengthen library services for and with teens by identifying quality, age-appropriate resources for librarians and library workers to share with the teens in their communities. Learn more about YALSA’s other book and media lists here.

A huge thank you goes out to the members of the 2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Blogging Team for all the great work they put into curating this list. The members are:

Crystal Chen, coordinator, The New York Public Library, Bronx, NY
Erin Durrett, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, Clinton Township, MI
Denise Farley, Dekalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA
Traci Glass, Lincoln City Libraries, Lincoln, NE
Thea Hashagen, Mill Valley Public Library, Mill Valley, CA
Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library, New Orleans, LA
Tina H. Lerno, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA
Mike Pawuk, Cuyahoga County Public Library, South Euclid, OH
Christine Pyles, Euclid Public Library, Euclid, OH
Celeste Rhoads, The American Library in Paris, Paris, France
Shaira Rock, Elmhurst Public Library, Elmhurst, IL
Becky Standal, Longview Public Library, Longview, WA
Isaiah West, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, Largo, MD

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, December 17 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Drifting Dragons Vol. 1 by Taku Kuwabara Book Cover
Drifting Dragons, Vol. 1 by Taku Kuwabara

Drifting Dragons, vol. 1–5 by Taku Kuwabara
Kodansha Comics
Publication Date: December 17, 2019; December 17, 2019; February 18, 2020; April 3, 2020; August 25, 2020
ISBN: 9781632368904, 9781632369444, 9781632369451, 9781632369512, 9781632369529

Drifting Dragons is a historical fantasy and cooking manga that chronicles the daily life and adventures of the crew of a draking (dragon-hunting) airship. The Quin Zaza is introduced as one of the few draking ships still in operation in this world, and the crew has no port to call home. They follow the dragons and sell the meat, oil, and other byproducts to the locals wherever they are after a successful hunt. The series features a large ensemble cast, but the main characters are Takita, a young woman who is new to the ship and the draking world, and Mika, a brazen man whose driving motivation is how much he enjoys eating dragons. Mika’s appetite leads to many scenes of food preparation and chapters often end with a recipe.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, December 17 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, December 10 Edition

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? by Heather Corinna and Isabella Rotman Book Cover
Wait, What? by Heather Corinna, Isabella Rotman, and Luke B. Howard

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
ISBN: 9781620106594

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.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, December 10 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, December 3 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen Book Cover
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Random House Graphic / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: October 13, 2020 
ISBN: 9781984851598 

Tiến enjoys reading fairy tales aloud with his mother. These enchanted tales—full of hope, wonder, and love—help build a bridge between Tiến and his parents. However, Tiến has a secret that he keeps from his parents, who are both Vietnamese refugees and struggling with their English. He is not sure how to tell them that he is gay. Even more, he is not sure how to say it in Vietnamese or if they will accept him. Will Tiến get his fairy tale happy ending or a tragic conclusion? 

The Magic Fish interweaves three visually stunning stories and cleverly separates them in different colors. The book focuses on Tiến’s story, his mother’s past, and fairy tales read out loud by Tiến and his mother. The readers will get a unique view of his mother’s experience as an immigrant and a glimpse of what it is like to be a child of immigrants. Author Trung Le Nguyen skillfully tackles the complexity of family ties and how stories can help build connections and understanding between people.  

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, December 3 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 26 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

My Riot by Rick Spears and Emmett Helen Book Cover
My Riot by Rick Spears and Emmett Helen

My Riot by Rick Spears and Emmett Helen
Oni Press
Publication Date: September 8, 2020 
ISBN: 9781620107768

Seventeen-year-old Valerie Simmons thinks her life’s dream is to be a ballerina until her first night at her new job at an ice cream parlor. Rioters throw a brick through the window, quickly smash the store, and move on. Val is left electrified. While her ballet instructor pressures her to develop an eating disorder and take up smoking, her new friend Kat takes her to a rock show that makes her feel alive. During a two-month grounding for going to the show, Val listens to mix tapes and begins to rethink her identity. She decides to learn the guitar so she can form a band. As music replaces dance as her passion, Valerie gets into the Riot Grrrl scene, culminating in a trip to a music festival in Olympia.  

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 26 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 19 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Heavy Vinyl, vol. 2: Y2K-)! by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva Book Cover
Heavy Vinyl, vol. 2: Y2K-0! by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva

Heavy Vinyl, vol. 2: Y2K-0! by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva
BOOM! Box / BOOM! Studios
Publication Date: March 25, 2020
ISBN: 9781684154951 

It’s 1999 in New Jersey. Seventeen-year-old Sam is working at Vinyl Destination, a record store where she and her coworkers sell music, play in a band, and operate a fight club.  When her coworker Kennedy discovers that someone is attaching a virus to music downloaded off “Snapster” and burned to CDs, the crew is on the case. They’re sure music executive Rick Blaze is behind it and that it is somehow connected to the Y2K turnover. Luckily, they’ve won a battle of the bands contest to open the New Year’s Eve show at Time Square, giving them just the right setting to save the day.  

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 19 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 12 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang Book Cover
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
First Second / Macmillan
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
ISBN: 9781626720794

Life can be more riveting than fiction, and Dragon Hoops proves that with a stellar biographical look at Gene Luen Yang’s true story of the phenomenal men’s varsity basketball team at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, CA, where he previously worked. Intermixed with his own life story as a comic book creator, father, and a teacher, Yang shares his love for storytelling and presents it under a new light in this gripping play-by-play of the 2015 season of the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons as they attempt to win it all in the California State Championship.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 12 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 5 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Primer by Jennifer Muro, Thomas Krajewski, and Gretel Lusky 
DC Comics 
Publication Dates: June 23, 2020 
ISBN: 9781401296575 

Primer tells the story of thirteen-year-old ray of sunshine Ashley Rayburn. Ashley’s father is in prison, and Ashley has been in and out of various foster homes because of her curious, rambunctious, and totally developmentally appropriate ways. Ashley finally feels like she’s found her home with a set of new foster parents, but when she breaks into her scientist foster mother’s safe, she comes across a set of body paints that give the wearer various superpowers. The organization that made the paints wants them back, and Ashley has to make choices to protect her new family. 

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 5 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, October 29 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith 
TOON Graphics 
Publication Date: September 15, 2020 
ISBN: 9786976535210 

Black Heroes of the Wild West gives brief introductions to Stagecoach Mary Fields, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons. Stagecoach Mary and Bass Reeves have been the subject of books for young readers over the past fifteen years or so, but the last Bob Lemmons picture book came out in 1998. Many readers will be coming to these figures for the first time, and these introductions do not disappoint. 

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, October 29 Edition

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, October 22 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru
DC Comics
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
ISBN: 9781779504210

In 1946, Lan-Shin (Roberta) Lee and her family move from Chinatown to central Metropolis and attempt to fit in with their neighbors. But when the Klan begins harassing the Lees, Roberta must team up with new friends to help Superman take down the Klan in this smart, action-packed adventure.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, October 22 Edition