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: Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham

  • Lunar New Year Love Story
  • by Gene Luen Yang and LeUyen Pham
  • First Second 
  • Publication Date: January 9, 2024
  • ISBN-13: 9781626728103

Valentina Trần has always loved Valentine’s Day, making homemade valentines for all of her friends and classmates. But when she moves to high school, her romantic view of true love is shattered when her grandmother tells her the family is cursed in love, and that Val’s own mother is not dead, as she has always believed, but in fact abandoned her family when Val was a baby. But Val isn’t quite ready to give up on true love. Hoping to avoid her family’s curse, Val makes a deal with St. Valentine—if she can’t find true love in the next year, she’ll turn her heart over to him. 

Yang pushes the rom-com trope of true love as he explores love in a variety of relationships, from friends to family. He even develops the love of one’s culture through characters that come from a diverse mix of Asian backgrounds, each bringing a unique, rich heritage to the shared celebration of the Lunar New Year. Pham supports this with expressive illustrations that show a wide range of emotions. Mostly monochromatic panels with pops of color are full of details, and highlight the drama and humor of the story.

Fans of Yang’s previous works will not be disappointed in this latest offering. Readers who enjoy sweet romantic comedies with a touch of angst, like Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy or Super Fake Love Song will find plenty to adore in this charming romance. Those who appreciate a good love triangle will enjoy Val’s struggle to choose between two lion dancers. Recommend this to fans of lighthearted comics with colorful, expressive illustrations like Pumpkinheads or Crumbs.

-Heather Christensen

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: February 13, 2024
Release Date: October 3, 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 (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennet

Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennet
Young Animal / DC
Publication Date: November 16, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781779512055

Sojourner “Jo” Mullen is a new Green Lantern on a mission far from home, investigating a murder in The City Enduring, a sprawling metropolis that has known peace for 500 years due to the genetic suppression of all emotions. When one murder turns to two, Jo finds herself grasping for answers in a political, ethical, and corrupt quagmire. Can she stay one-step ahead of the forces blocking her path?   

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Graceling: The Graphic Novel by Kristin Cashore and Gareth Hinds

Graceling: The Graphic Novel by Kristin Cashore and Gareth Hinds
Etch / Clarion Books
Publication Date: November 16, 2021
ISBN-13: 9780358250470

Celebrated illustrator Gareth Hinds adapts Kristin Cashore’s high-fantasy YA classic, Graceling! Katsa was born graced with lethal fighting skills, put to brutal use by her king from a young age. Out on a mission, she crosses paths with a mysterious fighter, the first to ever come close to beating her in combat. The fight changes her, and a series of related events work to unravel the mundane life of servitude and violence Katsa has always known.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Himawari House by Harmony Becker

Himawari House Cover Art

Himawari House by Harmony Becker
First Second / Macmillan
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
ISBN: 9781250235565

A young American, Nao, travels across the globe to attend school in Japan and to reconnect with her Japanese heritage. There, she discovers that her desire to fit in is complicated by her Americanness but finds a makeshift sense of belonging with other foreign exchange students Hyejung and Tina, who are also forging their own paths far away from home.

This coming-of-age story accurately captures the joys and pangs of young adulthood and the uncertainty of being caught between two worlds. Teens will find Nao, Hyejung, and Tina’s search for belonging, friendship, and identity both timeless and familiar. The art is at turns humorous and tender, and every character feels fully realized. A strength of this book is Becker‘s effective use of language (often phonetically described) to dismantle reductive and stereotypical ideas of bilingual speakers or speakers with accents. Instead, characters that speak in dialect, with accents, or with uneven syntax are shown to be just as deeply human, complex, and radiant as native or majority language speakers.

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of They Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood to the Hard Wood by Sugar Rodgers

They Better Call Me Sugar Cover Art

They Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood to the Hard Wood by Sugar Rodgers
Black Sheep/Akashic Books
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
ISBN: 978-1617759710

WNBA All-Star Sugar Rodgers shares her story of growing up, poverty, family life, school, sports, friends, and how she eventually shaped a successful career as a professional basketball player for herself. 

The author’s writing style is clear and direct, and events happen chronologically. Tough issues are covered with a matter-of-fact tone. The book is less than 200 pages and Sugar’s voice is engaging and relatable. Basketball is central to Sugar’s story but she also talks about golf, meeting Tiger Woods, and the integral role of coaches in her life.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Nominations Round-Up, Fall

Great Graphic Novels Roundup Art
Due to the large number of nominees, not all titles are shown here. See full list below.

Each quarter, the Selected Lists teams compile the titles that have been officially nominated to date. These books have been suggested by the team or through the title suggestion form, read by multiple members of the team, and received approval to be designated an official nomination. At the end of the year, the final list of nominations and each Selected List’s Top Ten will be chosen from these titles.


The Apothecary Diaries, v.1. By Natsu Hyuuga. Art by Nekokurage. 2020. Square Enix Manga, $10.99 (9781646090709). 

Maomao is a palace servant who was sold into service to the Emperor. After saving one of the Emperor’s heirs, she is promoted to food taster, where she is able to use her skills as an apothecary.

Artie and the Wolf Moon. By Olivia Stephens. Lerner Publishing Group / Graphic Universe, $16.99 (9781728420202). 

Artie discovers that her mother is a werewolf and that she has abilities of her own. While attempting to discover what happened to her missing father, she comes across other supernatural enemies.

Asadora, v.3. By Naoki Urasawa. VIZ Media / VIZ Signature, $14.99 (9781974720118). 

When she was young, Asa survived a devastating typhoon, but on the same day saw a mysterious footprint in the town where she lived with her family. Now older, Asa becomes involved in a mission to stop the creature who made the footprint.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of My Last Summer with Cass by Mark Crilley

My Last Summer with Cass Cover Art

My Last Summer with Cass by Mark Crilley
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
ISBN: 9780759555457

Childhood friends Megan and Cass, separated for years by a move, have reconnected for a summer adventure in New York City where Cass currently lives. Both are artists, but each have different ways of exploring and learning about art—rebellious Megan challenges Cass’s way of creative thinking and way of life. They collaborate on a personal art project that could bring them both to a new level of artistry, but is it too big of a step for them as artists and as friends?

A coming-of-age tale with an artistic flair, My Last Summer with Cass brushes all the right strokes of the challenge of growing up and sometimes growing apart. Going off to college always creates that complication, and the question of saving versus giving up on a childhood friendship is one that all teens can end up relating to. The soft and subtle coloring beautifully complements and elevates the expressive artwork. This is a heartfelt tale about standing up for yourself, even if sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you.

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of Nubia: The Real One by L.L. McKinney and Illustrated by Robyn Smith

Cover Art

Nubia: The Real One by L.L. McKinney, Illustrated by Robyn Smith 
DC Comics
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
ISBN: 978-1401296407

Nubia has Amazonian strength, but after using her strength to stop a robbery, she is the one who ends up in handcuffs. Even a superhero is not immune to racist police brutality, and sadly, this is not the first time something like that has happened to her. When her best friend is repeatedly harassed by a white boy who will not take no for an answer and a protest turns deadly, Nubia must decide whether she is going to potentially reveal her secret identity to protect the ones that she loves.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, November 12 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang Book Cover
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
First Second / Macmillan
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
ISBN: 9781626720794

Life can be more riveting than fiction, and Dragon Hoops proves that with a stellar biographical look at Gene Luen Yang’s true story of the phenomenal men’s varsity basketball team at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, CA, where he previously worked. Intermixed with his own life story as a comic book creator, father, and a teacher, Yang shares his love for storytelling and presents it under a new light in this gripping play-by-play of the 2015 season of the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons as they attempt to win it all in the California State Championship.

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