Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Joel Christian Gill narrates what it was like for him to grow up in a single-parent household in the 1980s, from childhood to young adulthood—Black, broke, and surrounded by uncertainty. Bouncing around between caretakers, schools, and residences, Gill shares a version of his turbulent adolescence, marked by pervasive violence—sexual, emotional, and physical—and the scant, but powerful, pockets of connection and fulfillment he finds in friendships, reading, and drawing.
Fights is loaded with traumatic events—of which Gill is frequently the victim but also, at times, the aggressor—but the simple cartoon style coupled with bursts of hope and humor prevent the mood from becoming overly dark. Ultimately a story of triumph, this graphic memoir could be a valued resource for readers with similar life experiences. It will also appeal to readers who were drawn to the candor of Hey, Kiddo and Gender Queer.
Stephen McCranie’s Space Boy, vol. 5 by Stephen McCranie
Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Still reeling from her confrontation with Oliver, Amy visits the hospital to speak with Dr. Kim to convince him to let her see Oliver. When that doesn’t work, Amy discreetly looks into what may be connected to Oliver’s secrets, checking out the nearby water containment facility. Amy discovers murals that Oliver has painted of what appears to be himself in space, himself on a ship, and a picture of his family, showing his parents and a younger brother. Amy begins to wonder if this is the family Oliver lost. Her synesthesia begins to pick up the disappearance of flavors, and she knows something strange is going on. Meanwhile, Amy’s close friends, Cassie and her boyfriend David, are ending their long-term relationship. Amy is there to console and be present for Cassie after her breakup.
Space Boy’s illustrations are clean and colorful, and readers will soon get used to McCranie’s lack of drawing feet. This continuation, while feeling somewhat like a setup for things to come, has enough going on to hold the reader’s attention and maintain interest in solving the mystery of Oliver in future volumes. While a bit slower paced, this volume makes the reader eager for more of Amy and Oliver’s story.
Readers of Stephen McCranie’s Space Boy may like the mystery and sci-fi aspects of the three volume Outpost Zero series written by Sean Kelly McKeever.
Girl on Film: A Graphic Novel Memoir by Cecil Castellucci, Vicky Leta, Jon Berg, V. Gagnon, and Melissa Duffy
Archaia / BOOM! Studios
Publication Date: November 19, 2019
This graphic memoir of the writer, filmmaker, alt-rocker, and all-around cool girl Cecil Castellucci chronicles her teen years and college in NYC in the ‘80s. Born to Canadian parents, Cecil spent her formative years in New York but also lived and worked in Paris and Montreal. She now calls Los Angeles home. Wherever she lived, she pursued her interests in film, theater, music, and art with earnestness.
Interwoven throughout the text are explanations of memory: the science of it and the interpretation of it for the story. Cecil’s father is a scientist who studies memory “and how the brain is modified by experience.”
The artwork is terrific, and the styles of the various illustrators work well together to show the different parts of Cecil’s life as well as the explanations of memory, which are given a subtle shift in color from the main story. For teens who are interested in the arts (but not sure which direction to go in), Cecil’s story of working her way through myriad interests will have lots of appeal. Teens will also enjoy reading the author’s other titles including Shade the Changing Girl, The Plain Janes, and Soupy Leaves Home.