Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2020) Nominees Round Up, April 19 Edition

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Lion Forge
Publication date May 28, 2019
ISBN 978-1549304002

Genderqueer author and artist Maia Kobabe, who uses non-binary pronouns e/em/eir, knew from childhood that e didn’t fit traditional definitions of female, and was never completely comfortable thinking of emself as male either. In this graphic novel memoir, e explores big themes like gender, sexuality, sex, relationships, and family side-by-side with specific individual experiences of bullying and misgendering, experimenting with clothing and haircuts, and coming out to family and friends.  Kobabe’s journey of self-discovery demonstrates with forthright, heartfelt honesty that gender and sexuality are spectrums that allow for every possible human experience and expression, and that there is no wrong way to be the real you.

Kobabe’s art is a simple, gentle take on realism—ideal for conveying information and introducing readers to the complexity of self-expression and identity. But there’s also a lot of emotion as Kobabe lays emself bare for readers. Gender Queer adds to the burgeoning subgenre of LGBTQ+ graphic memoirs (Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Flocks by L. Nichols, Super Late Bloomer by Julia Kaye, Tillie Walden’s Spinning) and contributes an important perspective from a queer identity that is not gay or trans but non-binary. By normalizing the myriad of ways in which we all seek to express ourselves and by challenging society’s traditional “either / or” narrative, Kobabe’s memoir serves as a guide for readers of all identities.

In Gender Queer, Kobabe explores not just gender and sexuality but the sexual practices that work or don’t work for em. This makes the book better suited for older teen readers, but is also one of the few books to address sex in an honest, non-sensational, relatable way for young adults.

—Kali Olson


Submerged by Vita Ayala and Lisa Sterle
Vault Comics
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
ISBN: 978-1939424426

For as long as she can remember, Elysia Puente has been cleaning up the messes her younger brother, Angel, creates. When he calls to tell her he’s in trouble on one of the stormiest nights of the year, Elysia can’t help but go rescue him once again. As she descends into the subway station that is closed for flooding, she encounters strange beings and unbelievable sights on her quest to find her brother. Once she is deep in the subway station though, Elysia finds that it may not be Angel she needs to save, but herself.

This modern-day retelling of The Odyssey begins as an adventure tale, but quickly morphs into a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. The reader soon discovers that Elysia’s journey relies on facing the demons of the past and overcoming her feelings of responsibility and guilt for abandoning her mother and brother with her abusive father. From dealing with her family’s inability to accept her sexual identity to her complicated relationship with her mother and brother, this story transforms Homer’s classic tale into a story that will resonate with today’s teens. Sterle’s artwork vividly intertwines the realistic and the otherworldly, urging the reader to feel the pain, regret and guilt Elysia struggles with on her emotional journey.

Hand to readers who enjoy other modern mythological retellings, such as a Persephone by Loic Locatelli-Kournwsky, or stories of strong, diverse female protagonists in otherworldly settings, such as Coyotes by Sean Lewis and Skyward by Joe Henderson.

—Lindsey Helfrich


Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel by Rey Terciero
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
ISBN: 978-0316522861

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel is a modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1868 novel Little Women. The girls live in a blended family—Meg is the daughter of Robert March. Robert married Madison, the mother of Jo, and the couple gave birth to Beth and Amy. Meg and Jo are in high school, Beth is in middle school, and Amy is elementary school. Meg is into fashion, Jo is an avid reader and aspiring writer, Beth loves music, and Amy is an artist. Each girl has their own talents and goals but then tragedy strikes the March family. They all have to overcome these traumas together and, through the love of family and friends, each March girl discovers her true self.

This book is aimed toward tweens but teens will also enjoy this wholesome and modernized story about the March family. Younger teens will enjoy seeing Meg and Jo grow into young adults with more responsibility and adore the creativity and spunk of Beth and Amy. Many teens are gearing up for the Greta Gerwig film adaptation of Little Women starring Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, and Timothée Chalamet and this book will definitely scratch the itch for eager would-be viewers.

Older readers who liked The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang and younger readers who are fond of graphic novels by Svetlana Chmakova and Raina Telgemeier will enjoy this cute, sometimes sad, but always engaging book.

—Christine Pyles

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Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Great Graphic Novels for Teens Blogging Team @ YALSA's The Hub.