Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Surviving the City, vol. 2: From the Roots Up by Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan

Cover Art

Surviving the City, vol. 2: From the Roots Up by Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan
HighWater Press
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
ISBN: 9781553798989

Miikwan and Dez’s story continues in this second volume of The Debwe Series. After her grandmother passes, Dez struggles with her loss and grief. She lives in a group home, but feels lonely and out of place. Dez’s romantic relationship with Kacey grows, but Dez hesitates to make it public. Meanwhile, Miikwan develops her own romance with new student Kiel, who is also dealing with a loss. The four attend an after-school gathering called Mino Bimaadiziwin, but when Dez tries to sit at the drum with the other young men, she is initially denied until an elder, Geraldine, intervenes. Miikwan also defends Dez, and Dez finally reveals her identity as a Two-Spirit person. The four students convince Geraldine that the old protocols are exclusionary and antithetical to Mino Bimaadiziwin or “the good life,” and Riel’s Auntie Alex is invited to share about Two-Spirit teachings. Afterward, everyone, no matter their gender or sexuality, is welcomed back into the circle.

Spillett crafts another beautiful story about friendship and the importance of love and acceptance within communities. Donovan’s art flows smoothly, bringing the characters and their emotions to life in shades of orange and blue. Ghostly figures—some gentle and loving, others not—linger near the characters, many representing those lost but not forgotten while others hint at more dangerous things beneath the surface. The characters, particularly Dez, Miikwan, and Riel, are well-developed and sympathetic, providing relatable points of entry for many teens.

Readers seeking other comics with similar themes of social justice and reconciliation, particularly within Indigenous communities, may enjoy Katherena Vermette’s A Girl Called Echo series, Brianna Jonnie’s If I Go Missing, and Patti LaBoucane-Benson’s The Outside Circle. Those looking for similar stories centered on the unshakeable bonds of love and friendship may enjoy Kat Leyh’s Thirsty Mermaids, Charlotte Nicole Davis’s The Good Luck Girls, and Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land.

—Crystal Chen

Other Nominated Titles

  • Asadora!, vol. 2 by Naoki Urasawa (March 20, 2021)
  • The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott by Zoe Thorogood (October 14, 2020)
  • Boys Run the Riot, vol. 1 by Keito Gaku (May 25, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams will feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation will be listed as well. At year’s end, the team will use that list of nominated titles to select a final list and Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are also made available on The Hub.

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Great Graphic Novels for Teens

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