OUTspoken: Teen Graphic Novels for Pride Month

Though Pride month recently wrapped up, the need for these titles lasts all year. These positive, inclusive graphic novels span many genres (contemporary, fantasy, mystery, memoir) and include LGBTQia* characters just going about their business, whether that be going to school, finding love, solving crimes, rescuing princesses, or reaping souls. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list – add your favorites in the comments below!

*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual

Giant Days series by John Allison, et al.

Realistic, witty, and irreverent, this slice-of-life series follows the trials and tribulations of new friends Susan, Esther, and Daisy in their first year of college and beyond. Susan is a cynical pragmatist, Esther a goth drama queen, and Daisy a sweetly naïve, homeschooled lesbian. As the girls attend classes and parties, rent their first apartment, find jobs, fall in love, and deal with family drama, they never fail to support each other. Seven volumes are currently available. Older Teen

Kim Reaper series by Sarah Graley

This quirky-cute series about Kim, a part-time grim reaper, and her love interest Becka, a self-absorbed art student, is as fizzy and entertaining as an oddball cartoon like Adventure Time or Gravity Falls. In the first issue, Becka and Kim meet-cute when Becka is accidentally sucked into the portal that Kim uses to travel for her job. She catches Kim reaping the soul of someone’s pet cat (oh yeah, since Kim is part-time she’s only allowed to reap animal souls), and things only get weirder from there. Currently only volume one is available. Teen

Goldie Vance series by Hope Larson & Brittney Williams

Set in the teeny-bopper 1950s, intrepid teen Goldie Vance works as a valet at the Florida resort hotel that her dad manages, but she really wants to be a detective. She also has a crush on a hot dame, Diane, who works in the local record store. When a German scientist staying at the resort is kidnapped, Goldie unravels a mystery about a new form of rocket fuel crucial to the space race. This is a clever, light-hearted parody of stories like Archie and Nancy Drew, with lots of drag races, car chases, and explosions to subvert the wholesome surface. Two volumes are currently available. Tween or Teen.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill

A gentle subversion of fairy tale tropes, this graphic novel is feminist, funny, and cute as hell – plus like all good (lesbian) fairy tales, it ends with a wedding. Princess Amira has a sword, a unicorn, and kick-butt hair, so she’s all set to rescue her first princess and become a hero. Princess Sadie, trapped in her tower, is afraid that a crybaby like her can’t survive in the world. Together, they find that with a combination of bravery, kindness, and trust, they are more than a match for a butthead prince stuck in a tree, a misunderstood ogre, and even Sadie’s jealous sister, the sorceress queen. Tween.

Lumberjanes series by Noelle Stevenson, et al.

This Eisner-award winning series is about a group of girls attending a summer camp for “hardcore lady-types” (poking good-natured fun at Girl Scouts) while building supportive friendships and going on hilariously weird supernatural quests. The plot moves at a breakneck pace: in the first volume alone, the girls take on three-eyed foxes, a spooky cave, and another camp for well-behaved boys. The core group of girls are diverse in race, body size, and (burgeoning) sexual identity, and both the artwork and story subvert stereotypes without coming across as preachy. Ten volumes are currently available. Tween or Teen.

Drama by Rania Telgemeier

Rania Telgemeier is one of those authors who gets kids, and this book about the cast and crew of a middle school musical production is no exception. While Callie, the independently minded set designer, is determined to bring a semi-realistic working cannon to her school’s production of “Moon over Mississippi”, she also wants to find a date for the 8th grade dance. The relationship drama among the cast and crew will ring true to middle schoolers, who flock to Telgemeier’s books for her authentic, affectionate peek into their messy, emotional social lives. Gay characters and age-appropriate responses to their first steps into dating don’t stand out amongst the rest of the relationship drama, which is kind of the point. Tween.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

This uplifting graphic novel about the friendship between a prince who loves dresses and the young dressmaker who designs them may be the best thing to come out of 2018. It’s full of memorable characters with big hearts, and its message about being true to yourself is invaluable. Set in Paris at the turn of the century, Prince Sebastian relieves the stress of his search for a suitable bride by going out at night as his alter ego—fashion icon Lady Crystallia. When he meets Frances, a seamstress with hopes of becoming a famous fashion designer, it’s a match made in heaven—at first. Frances’ fabulous dresses are the talk of the Paris fashion scene, but because Frances is working in secret she can’t take credit. How long should Frances keep her dreams on hold to protect Sebastian’s secret? Tween.

Tomboy by Liz Prince

This graphic memoir explores growing up confused about and conflicted with traditional gender roles. Liz Prince felt that she existed somewhere between “boy” and “girl” for much of her childhood and adolescence. Gendered toys, clothes, school activities, and expectations at home: everything made Liz feel there was something wrong with her because she wasn’t girly enough. She resented how boys were rewarded for being funny, smart, or talented, while girls only got noticed when they were pretty. In this thoughtful and genuine coming-of-age tale, Liz eventually learns how to be a girl on her own terms. Teen

—Krista Hutley