What Does Consent Really Mean? by Pete and Thalia Wallis, Illustrated by Joseph Wilkins
Publication date: November 21, 2017
While heading home from school one day, a coed group of friends talks about consent: what does it really mean, and how does it apply to their lives? As they talk, it becomes clear that guys and girls face different societal pressures. However, the group quickly realizes that neither gender is exempt from the negative effects of peer pressure, pornography, and media portrayals of gender roles.
Gradually, the teens in this group see that they all have to deal with unrealistic expectations regarding sexual prowess, beauty, and a lack of communication during sex. What people say on social media is no substitute for getting the facts about these subjects, and learning to articulate your thoughts and feelings within a relationship takes time. Talking about these issues with friends is a good place to start though, and understanding consent helps everyone to be more secure in their relationships and themselves.
This thoughtful and conversation-sparking book mercifully avoids the pitfalls of seeming awkward, preachy, or out of touch—the authors sympathetically portray a diverse group of friends who have very different ideas about what consent means. Some of the British slang here might take a few pages for American readers to get used to, but this book can help every reader better understand a complicated subject. Though teens might not pick this book up for fun, it’s a necessary title that will likely engage graphic novel fans and reluctant readers alike.
Valiant High by Daniel Kibblesmith, Illustrated by Derek Charm
Valiant Entertainment, LLC
Publication date: September 4, 2018
Ordinary rites of passage—from gym class to dances—are extraordinary at Valiant High School, where super-powered teens aren’t allowed to use their powers (except during dodgeball). But there are secrets lurking in every hallway of this strange institution: what’s the deal with the mysterious car that Amanda discovers while searching for her possibly kidnapped best friend? Has Gilad really been a sophomore for decades? And, is Principal Harada hiding something sinister?
Amanda McKee and her classmates have superpowers, but their struggles with school, friendship, and getting crushes to notice them are deeply relatable. Teens looking for a fun blend of relationship drama and superheroes will enjoy this entertaining introduction to Valiant characters. Give this book to fans of the X-Men and My Hero Academia.
Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Hey, Kiddo is a distinct departure from Krosoczka’s playful children’s graphic novels. He trades colorful characters for the darkness of his own childhood as the child of a heroin addict and the grandchild of alcoholics.
Krosoczka’s distinctive strength is to draw out the rich complexities of his mother and grandparents: despite the constant fighting, hostility, and disappointment, their love for Jarrett shines through. The artwork reflects this blend of darkness and tenderness as well: the restricted palette of greyscale with orange tones is softened by gentle lines used to draw his family members. One way this love is expressed is through Jarrett’s mom’s letters, cards, and drawings to him—which are included throughout the book, and his grandparents’ life-altering decision to encourage him to take classes at the Worcester Art Museum.
Readers trace the development of Jarrett’s connection to art, from the drawings he and his mother would send back and forth when she was in prison to finding his niche in high school as a newspaper cartoonist and his use of drawing as a means to survive and escape. Jarrett’s grandfather gives him one of the most affirming gifts of all: he tells Jarrett that he doesn’t have to go into the family business if he doesn’t want to when he grows up.
This memoir is a terrific addition to a graphic novels collection and is accessible to both younger and older teens. This book pairs well with art-focused graphic novel memoirs like The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley and darker memoirs about mental illness like Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green.