Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Aya: Claws Come Out by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie

  • Aya: Claws Come Out
  • by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
  • Drawn and Quarterly
  • Publication Date: February 6, 2024
  • ISBN-13: 9781770467019

It’s been more than a decade since the first volumes of Marguerite Abouet and Clément

Oubrerie’s sprawling historical novels centered the extended families of the famously independent title character and her two best friends in Yop City, a working class area of Abidjan, the largest city in the Ivory Coast. As this volume opens with the election of Mitterand, Aya, “the most sensible one in the neighborhood,” is at college for law. After the disco and neighborhood dramas of the 1970s incarnations, Claws Come Out has Reagan-era energy, maintained with the throughline of workplace farce as Aya seeks a corporate internship and Bonaventure takes Gregoire under his wing at his conglomerate, Solibra. A parallel storyline 3700 miles away, in Paris, finds Inno arrested after intervening in police harassment. He negotiates whether to push his asylum claim or return home with his French partner Seb, and his experiences are contrasted with those of his former flame Albert, as they are both forced into relationships of convenience.

Darker than the original series, but nonetheless maintaining an overt soap opera sensibility, Claws Come Out has an emphasis on mass media that provides timely commentary on fame and empathy as Bintou’s notoriety, found through role as a homewrecker, is her undoing. In the climactic sequence, Bintou’s televised interview is interrupted by breaking news from the University where the blameless Aya is arrested at a campus protest, a scene that could be ripped from the headlines today.

While earlier volumes were lighter in tone, with appeal to shojo and Austen readers alike, the cast of characters from Yopougon are now older, more serious, and more political, and as result it reads more like the work of Marjane Sartrapi or Zeina Abirachad. Characters negotiate arrest, deportation and systemic barriers to documentation in France, and the disenfranchisement of Cambodian students in the Ivory Coast is also emphasized, evoking gems like Hostage by Guy Delisle or Anthony Del Cole and Fahmida Azim’s I Survived a Chinese Internment Camp. This is a thoughtful series for teens with interest in global history and culture.

–Wendy Stephens

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: May 7, 2024
Release Date: October 24, 2023 

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2025) Feature Review: Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

When she was younger, Valentina Tran’s favorite holiday was her namesake, Valentine’s Day. But then her father tells her to stop making cards and a classmate named Jae trashes the one she gave him. Now that she’s older and has learned that her father lied to her about mother’s supposed death, she no longer believes in love; in fact, she thinks her family is romantically cursed. Complicating matters is the ghostly presence of St. Valentine, offering to spare her heartbreak if she gives up her heart to him. But then she meets a pair of lion dancers at a Tết (Lunar New Year) celebration – one of whom is Jae – and decides to try to learn the dance herself. She falls in love with it, and also begins dating her dancing partner and Jae’s cousin, a cute boy named Leslie who won’t define what they have together. Val has to grapple with her relationship with her father, the mother she believed abandoned her, her undefined relationship with Leslie, and her growing feelings for Jae before St. Valentine comes for her answer.

The art and storytelling weave together to tell a beautiful story, one of Val’s personal growth as well as a love story. Humorous touches keep the story engaging, as well as the vibrant art. Lion dancing especially shines, the movements seeming to leap off the page as well as show how different Asian cultures have different depictions of the lion and ways of dancing.

Graphic novel and romance enthusiasts will both enjoy this book. For readers who enjoy a sweet romance with a touch of magic, try Crumbs by Danie Stirling. Belle of the Ball by Mari Costa is another title featuring a gentle romance complicated by a love triangle and differing expectations. Fans of author David Yoon’s YA romances should also enjoy this book.

Leanna C.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy by Faith Erin Hicks

  • Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy
  • by Faith Erin Hicks
  • First Second
  • Publication Date: October 3, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9781250838728

When hockey player Alix can no longer handle her team captain Lindsay’s constant insults, she loses her temper and punches Lindsay, at which point their coach threatens to pull her recommendation for Alix to attend a hockey camp over the summer. Realizing she needs help controlling her temper, she appeals to drama guy Ezra, who she notices is always cool in the face of homophobic bullying. In the ensuing friendship and budding romance (Ezra eschews labels but says he is “attracted to lots of different people, not just guys”), the two realize that they’re both more complicated than the stereotypes other people see them as, and that perhaps they like that about each other.

Faith Erin Hicks’ artwork excels in portraying both quiet, emotional moments and zippy action on the hockey ice. The limited pale blue palette of the illustrations lends an emotional resonance that wouldn’t be conveyed in the same way by full color. The story itself also manages to deftly pack in a number of common high school issues, including parental disapproval (and in fact, teens’ disapproval of their parents’ choices—the parents in this book are far from perfect!), bullying and homophobia, the decision to label one’s sexuality (or not), and how to decide if your dreams are worth fighting for.

Hockey Girl will appeal to fans of other LGBTQ sports romances like Kelly Quindlen’s She Drives Me Crazy and Jennifer Dugan’s Some Girls. It is a perfect next choice for fans of Check, Please who want to stay on the ice but are ready for a more complicated story. Readers of Heartstopper by Alice Oseman will also appreciate that Hockey Girl’s fluffy rom com surface belies a similarly surprising emotional depth.

Lee Stokes

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: March 5, 2024
Release Date: March 21, 2024

Suggested Read: The Bodygaurd Unit: The Bodyguard Unit: Edith Garrud, Women’s Suffrage, and Jujitsu by Clément Xavier

  • The Bodygaurd Unit: Edith Gurrud, Women’s Suffrage, and Jujitsu
  • by Clément Xavier
  • Graphics Universe
  • Publication Date: August 1, 2023
  • ISBN: 9798765607473

This graphic novel illustrates the women’s suffrage movement in the UK telling a story you may not have learned before. Edith Garrud was a Jujitsu instructor who used her practice to protest for women’s rights and teach other women self-defense. 

One of the outstanding aspects of this book is the use of historical images alongside illustrations. This graphic novel brings new life to these historic events! 

If you would like to learn more about women’s rights, early 20th century England, Jujitsu, or just enjoy graphic novels, you are sure to enjoy this book!

-Erin Soutar

Thank you to our guest blogger, for more reviews find her on Instagram and Facebook!

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Pardalita by Joana Estrela

  • Pardalita
  • by Joana Estrela
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • Imprint: Levine Querido
  • Release date:  April 18, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781646142569

Raquel is a 16-year-old living in a very small town in Portugal. Everyone knows everyone kind of small town. It starts out with Raquel being suspended for cussing out a school aide. She has her two best friends, Luisa and Fred, to help ground her. Then she sees, for the first, Pardalita. Next thing Raquel knows is that she’s applying for the theater program to become closer to Pardalita.

I think this would be a good candidate for QPRR. It’s very much a slice of life, it’s very relatable, and deals with first loves/crushes, being an “angsty” teenager, and “coming out of your shell.” It’s very much a great book to read for any teen!

 Recommended for readers who also may have enjoyed This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, and Are you listening? by Tillie Walden.

-Molly Sprague-Rice

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: January 3, 2023
Release Date: March 7, 2023

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 feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

  • Hungry Ghost
  • By Victoria Ying  
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Imprint: First Second
  • Release date: April 25, 2023 
  • ISBN: 9781250766991

Valerie Chu is the perfect daughter: obedient, quiet, studious, and thin. When tragic circumstances cause her to lose her carefully controlled grip on her life, she must question her relationship with her mother and what future she really wants for herself. Content warning for eating disorders and death of a loved one.

This is a very short, issue-oriented graphic novel that will appeal to many teens. Even if readers have not struggled with an eating disorder, they will likely relate to the pressure that Valerie feels to fit in to other’s expectations of her. Some of the characters could have benefited from deeper development, but the relationship between Valerie and her best friend, Jordan, seemed very real and relatable.

 For more body dysmorphia books consider titles like Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green or The Impossible Light by Lily Myers.

-Julianne Novetsky

Other Nominated Titles

January 3, 2023
Release Date: March 7, 2023

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 feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2024) Featured Review: Northranger by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

  • Northranger
  • by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo
  • HarperAlley
  • Publication Date: June 6, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9780063007383

Cade is just your average horror-loving, queer Texas teen who stays closeted in the face of his step-dad’s casual household homophobia and gender stereotyping.  When he has to help out on a ranch for the summer, sparks fly with the equally closeted rancher’s son Henry. Their budding friendship and romance is just one piece of a large web of truths that can’t be said out loud. The mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother threatens to tear them apart when Cade’s pre-disposure to translate the world through the eyes of a horror movie gets the best of him. 

Indigo’s choice of sepia tones and shaded renderings of rural and urban Texas create a perfect mood for this contemporary gothic romance take on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Sibling squabbles, crushes, parent quarrels—all relationships—are depicted and conveyed with a surprising amount of nuance and depth within such a quick read. Teens will enjoy the tension and flow of these relationships, especially as they exist within Cade’s obsession with all things horror. Family connections, and learning to talk about uncomfortable subjects out loud, are the only things that might save the day in this wildly charming love story.

Ideal for fans of Heartstopper and Bloom, the romance and real-life complications of Northranger are beautifully portrayed. This graphic will be equally appealing to teens who find the creepiness, mystery, and tension of gothic romance especially thrilling, or for anyone who enjoys horror tropes mixed with real life. Readers who enjoy Northranger may want to also want to check out The Hills of Estrella Roja by Ashley Robin Franklin. Finally, fans of Jane Austen’s original novel and of remixes in general will find a lot to love here.

-M’issa Fleming

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: January 10, 2023
Release Date: May 9, 2023
Release Date: June 20, 2023
Release Date: August 29, 2023

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 feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2024) Featured Review: The Dog Knight by Jeremy Whitley and Bre Indigo

  • The Dog Knight by Jeremy Whitley and Bre Indigo
  • Feiwel & Friends / Macmillan Publishing Group
  • Publication Date: May 16, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9781250756725

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: November 8, 2022
Release Date: February 7, 2023
Release Date: September 12, 2023
Release Date: October 17, 2023

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 feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2024) Featured Review: Danger and Other Unknown Risks by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

  • Danger and Other Unknown Risks
  • by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
  • Penguin Random House / Penguin Workshop
  • Publication Date: April 4 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9780593224823

In Danger and Other Unknown Risks Marguerite and her talking dog Daisy are on a quest to save their post-apocalyptic world. At midnight on January 1, 2000, the apocalypse came in the form of magic, and the world is now split into different realms where the laws of physics and the way magic works are different. Marguerite has been tasked by her uncle with finding three totems so he can perform a powerful spell that will save the world from its current magical instability. As Marguerite and Daisy try to save the world, they meet a variety of people along the way and have an adventure all their own. Will they succeed in obtaining the items they need to save the world?

Danger and Other Unknown Risks is a fun, dystopian adventure full of magic, a talking dog, and humor with a likable, quirky protagonist. The world building is fun and interesting and provides a unique magical future that the reader can get invested in. The illustrations are fun and colorful, but also include realistic body sizes, and a variety of different realms. While the art may look cartoony, readers are in for a high-stakes, perilous ride. 

Danger and Other Unknown Risks is a great read for fans of dystopian adventures or D&D stories. Fans of North and Henderson’s previous work together on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl will gravitate towards this standalone volume from the familiar team. Teens who like offbeat shows like Adventure Time or Loki will also enjoy this book.

—Kaileigh Oldham

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: March 1, 2023
Release Date: February 14, 2023
Release Date: June 13, 2023
Release Date: July 4, 2023

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 feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2024) Featured Review: Season of the Bruja by Aaron Durán and Sara Soler

  • Season of the Bruja, vol. 1
  • by Aaron Durán and Sara Soler
  • Publisher: Oni Press
  • Publication Date: January 24, 2023
  • ISBN-13: ‎978-1549308161

Raised by her grandmother and paranormal family friends, Althalia is one of the last brujas and is being taught to control her magic and maintain her culture. Her life drastically shifts when it turns out that the church who has persecuted her people for centuries now knows of her and her grandmother. Althalia must go through the trials of learning to control her power as her grandmother wishes, while uncovering family secrets and a vast array of emotions in the process.

Season of the Bruja, vol. 1 is a fast-paced and action-packed graphic story with a center of family, friendship, and culture. It has exorcisms, Chupacabra’s, and were-coyotes–oh my! But the magic enhances the storytelling without overwhelming it, and character emotions still shine through.

Those who are interested in the magic and paranormal combined with everyday life should read Kelly Thompson’s Sabrina The Teenage Witch comics. For those who want more of the action, look for the new comic adaptation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora. For teens who want more Latine representation in witchcraft, pick up Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas or the Brooklyn Brujas series by Zoraida Córdova.

—Cheyenne Sons

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: February 14, 2023
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Release Date: May 2, 2023
Release Date: June 27, 2023

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 feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.