Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Chuna Ha is a South Korean girl who finds herself abruptly moved from her comfortable life in Seoul to Alabama once her vacation abroad turns into a new marriage for her mother. When her Mom marries Mr. Kim, Chuna finds herself surrounded by her new Korean American family. At first, Chuna struggles to find common ground with her classmates and has a difficult time learning English. To fit in more, she chooses an American name: Robin. After enrolling in a drawing class, Robin befriends Jessica, another comic book artist. When her mother’s marriage to Mr. Kim is on the rocks, her mother decides to move the two of them to Virginia. This move is close to D.C. and Robin is happy to see lots of international students, including fellow Korean students. As an adult, Robin returns to Seoul to visit with her old school friends and finds that she no longer completely fits in with Korean culture. When she returns to the U.S., she begins to think of her identity as Korean American, as she identifies with both cultures.
This is a fantastic memoir that has the reader truly feeling everything Robin is going through. Readers will identify with how difficult it is to transition and fit in, especially in a new country, and will root for Robin throughout the entire story. The illustrations beautifully back up the events in the story. The artwork is clean and makes each character distinct. Ha also does a great job showing conversations she and her mother would have in Korean versus English.
Readers that enjoy this memoir should take a look at I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, both personal stories of trying to understand and fit in with multiple cultures at once.
Ironheart, vol. 2: Ten Rings by Eve L. Ewing and Luciano Vecchio
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Riri Williams is back and going out with a bang! In Ewing and Vecchio’s final volume, Ten Rings delivers as readers see Riri team up with Wasp, go to Wakanda, fight alongside Doctor Strange, and battle zombies all in six action-packed issues.
The most entertaining part of this story is the interaction between Riri and Shuri. The girls don’t get along with each other despite both being teenage prodigies (Okoye is always quick to point this out to the reader for some comedic relief). Riri is such an inspirational character for young readers and a collaboration between Ironheart and Shuri will leave readers inspired to see their own potential. Ewing’s dialogue is witty and the story’s pacing is superb. Vecchio’s artwork is bright and uplifting and suits the character and her story. Vecchio excels at drawing emotional scenes and facial expressions, giving the story much more weight.
Sadly, this is another great teen-oriented title from Marvel that is biting the dust, but don’t let that stop you from buying these volumes and promoting them with your teen patrons. Riri will surely be back with another book soon, and she has made appearances in recent arcs for Miles Morales, Champions, and Iron Man. Recommend this to teens who have enjoyed Ms. Marvel, Lion Forge’s Quincredible, and even the Dread Nation duology by Justina Ireland.