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

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Gachiakuta, vol. 1 by Kei Urana (story) and Hideyoshi Andou (graffiti design)

  • Gachiakuta, vol. 1
  • by Kei Urana (story) and Hideyoshi Andou (graffiti design)
  • Kodansha Comics
  • Publication Date: January 16, 2024
  • ISBN-13: 979-8888770207

Rampant consumerism is encouraged in a particular floating town, and affluent citizens discard valuable items instead of repairing them. Rudo lives in the slums and sees use in what gets thrown away. Exiled into the Pit when he is wrongly accused and convicted of murder, Rudo finds more than garbage in this eerie wasteland. The careless wastefulness of the townspeople has created literal monsters that the Cleaners battle. Rudo must join them to discover the truth and fight for freedom.

Kei Urana’s dystopian world-building is impressive, painting a vivid picture of a society that values trash more than people. Hideyoshi Andou’s design brings this world to life; from the towering megacities to the barren wastelands below, every aspect of the world feels meticulously crafted and brimming with detail, inviting readers to lose themselves in the bold art style that captures the kinetic energy of the multiple conflicts. Beyond its immersive world-building, this story tackles weighty themes with intelligence and nuance. Questions of ethics, morality, and the nature of humanity weave into a compelling narrative.Fans of Chainsaw Man will see Rudo as a similarly flawed hero who must fight a rigged system to free himself from subjugation. Urana’s dynamic battle scenes will delight readers of Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama. Readers can find similar stories and themes in Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro and Chris Gooch’s Under-Earth. Volume 2 will be released on April 30, 2024.

Patricia Jimenez

Other Nominated Titles

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Mall Goth by Kate Leth

  • Mall Goth
  • by Kate Leth
  • Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Publication Date: September 26, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9781534476943

Malls make a comeback in this early 2000s-inspired book about a teen looking for community and a place to be herself. Liv Holme is a high school student who moves to a new town while her parents struggle in their marriage, and she discovers the mall as solace. Trying to find her place at school, Liv slowly befriends two classmates who share similar interests and aesthetics and captures the attention of one of her teachers. Little does she know that the new-found validation from an authority figure at school may devolve into something sinister. 

Mall Goth explores the intricacies of being a teen in a new school and trying to find one’s place. The book presents common scenarios teens struggle with, particularly the possibility of falling victim to predators. The characters are authentic, relatable and likable. They are representative of different body sizes, and even if there isn’t much cultural diversity present, it feels like it channels a small town’s energy. The art is compelling, and the color palette fits the story’s mood and the characters’ quirkiness. 

People interested in Mariko Tamaki will find it enjoyable, as it has similar vibes to I Am Not Starfire and Skim, as well as those that loved Netflix’s Wednesday. As a bonus, for those who loved or enjoyed the 2000’s rock music scene, a recommended playlist for the book would definitely include Linkin Park, Evanescence, Korn and Deftones.

–Verónica Muñiz-Soto

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: September 5, 2023
Release Date: November 4, 2022

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Bunt!: Striking Out on Financial Aid by Ngozi Ukazu and Mad Rupert

  • Bunt!: Striking Out on Financial Aid
  • by Ngozi Ukazu and Mad Rupert
  • First Second
  • Publication Date: 2/13/2024
  • ISBN-13: 9781250193513

Molly Bauer is thrilled to be starting freshman year at PICA, the (expensive) art school that dominates her hometown of Peachtree, Georgia. But when she shows up for the first day of orientation, she finds her full-ride scholarship has vanished due to a bureaucratic mix-up. Desperate to fix the issue without letting her moms find out, Molly stumbles upon the perfect solution – a little-known athletic scholarship that will pay for a full year of tuition. The only requirement? She’ll need to assemble a rag-tag group of softball players and win a single game. 

Bunt! is a charming and laugh-out-loud funny mix of sports and romance, as well as an acknowledgement of the complexities of navigating scholarships, student debt, and institutions of higher education. Mad Rupert’s art style is bold and vibrantly colorful, contributing to the fun and fast-paced energy of the story. Characters display a wide range of skin tones and body types, and multiple queer identities are represented. 

Fans of Ngozi Ukazu’s previous series Check, Please! will be sure to enjoy the similar mix of energetic humor, college sports, and queer romance. Readers looking for more of the quirky group dynamics and unlikely-sports-team-made-up-of-art-kids antics of The Avant Guards will find much to enjoy in Bunt!. Bunt! will also appeal to watchers of the TV series A League of Their Own who enjoy sapphic romance and queer characters and are willing to make the jump from baseball to softball. 

-–Meg Bowie

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, vol. 1 by Umi (REDICE STUDIO), singNsong, and Sleepy-C

  • Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, vol. 1
  • by Umi (REDICE STUDIO), singNsong, and Sleepy-C
  • Ize Press
  • Publication Date: December 12, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9798400901065

Dokja Kim could be anyone. The 28-year-old, single office worker spends his days in monotony and relishes his evening commute home when he reads the latest chapter of his favorite web novel, “Three Ways to Survive the Apocalypse.” He’s the only person still reading it after ten years and over 3,000 chapters, and today is the day the final chapter will be published. But instead of a final chapter, Dokja finds himself living the start of the web novel in real life as a goblin-like creature appears, announces The Main Scenario is starting, and proclaims the people now trapped in the train car will only survive if they kill a living creature. As fiction becomes a nightmare, Dokja must step up and do the best he can because he knows the main protagonist is coming: Yoo Joonghyuk, the Regressor, a man who has lived The Main Scenario over and over again.

Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, or ORV, had 360 million global views as of May 2021, with readership almost equally split between male and female. The art and narration flow seamlessly together, and while there are violent scenes, they’re not gratuitous and fit the story framework. ORV stands out among the apocalyptic fantasy manhwa and manga for this reason. Readers who enjoy ORV may also enjoy Solo Leveling (manhwa/anime) by Dubu (REDICE STUDIO) and Chugong, for the similar settings and leveling up story lines; A Returner’s Magic Should Be Special (manhwa/anime) by Usonan and Wookjakga, since the main characters both know the future and seek to change it.

-Melanie C. Duncan

Great Graphic Novels #GGN2025 Quarterly Round-Up: Spring

Each quarter, the Selected Lists teams compile the officially nominated titles to date. These titles have been suggested by the team or through the title suggestion form, read by multiple team members, and received approval to be designated an official nomination. At the end of the year, each team will choose the final list of nominations and determine the Selected List’s Top Ten from these titles. For brevity, we have not included official nominations of subsequent volumes in ongoing series in this round-up, only first volumes and standalone titles.

–Meg Bowie, GGN Coordinator

  • Bunt!: Striking Out on Financial Aid
  • By Ngozi Ukazu
  • Art by Mad Rupert
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 279p.
  • Publisher: First Second, paper, $17.99 (9781250193513)
  • Reading Lelve: Gr. 9-12
  • 741.5973.

When college freshman Molly Bauer’s full-ride scholarship to art school falls through, her only option is to assemble a ragtag group of reluctant softball players in pursuit of an athletic scholarship.

  • Call Me Iggy
  • By Jorge Augusto Aguirre
  • Art by Rafael Rosado
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 245p.
  • Publisher: First Second, paper, $18.99 (9781250204134).
  • Reading Level: Gr. 9-12.
  • 741.5973.

Ignacio (aka “Iggy”), a second generation Columbian American, starts high school and is visited by his dead grandfather.

  • Cooking with Monsters: The Beginner’s Guide to Culinary Combat
  • By Jordan Alsaqa
  • Art by Vivian Truong
  • Release: 2023
  • Length: 256p
  • Publishers: IDW Publishing, paper, $16.99 (9781684059836)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12
  • 741.5973

To become a warrior chef, Hana must face furious monsters, navigate awkward friendships, and learn to make the perfect meal.

  • Freshman Year
  • By Sarah Mai. Art by the author
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 273p.
  • Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books, paper, $17.99 (9780316401173)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 9-12
  • 741.5973

This book chronicles one girl’s freshman year in college, from making new friends and exploring one’s identity to staying up all night cramming for finals.

  • Gachiakuta, vol. 1.
  • By Kei Urana. Art by the author
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 188p.
  • Publisher: Kodansha Comics, paper, $12.99 (9798888770207)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 9-12
  • 741.5952.

Framed for murder and exiled into the pit, Rudo will learn that there is more than garbage beyond the Sphere.

Chelsea’s newfound high school popularity is threatened when she’s forced to work at her dad’s paranormal removal company; but soon she discovers a mystery she can’t help but try to solve.

  • Gokurakugai, vol. 1
  • By Yuto Sano. Art by the author
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 184p
  • Publisher: VIZ Media, paper, $11.99 (9781974743568)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 9-12
  • 741.5952

The Gokurakugai Troubleshooter Agency hunts down supernatural monsters terrorizing their neighborhood.

  • Hockey Girl Loves Drama Boy
  • By Faith Erin Hicks
  • Art by the author
  • Release: 2023
  • Length: 286p.
  • Publisher: First Second, paper, $17.99 (9781250838728)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 9-12.
  • 741.5971

When hockey player Alix realizes she needs help keeping her cool, she asks her classmate Ezra to become her mentor – and ends up falling for him.

  • How to Love: A Guide to Feelings & Relationships for Everyone
  • By Alex Norris. Art by the author.
  • Release: 2023
  • Length: 220p.
  • Publisher: Walker Books US, hardcover, $17.99 (9781536217889)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 9-12
  • 306.7083

Author and illustrator Alex Norris answers common questions about love, relationships, and feelings of all sorts.

  • Huda F Cares?
  • By Huda Fahmy. Art by the author.
  • Release: 2023
  • Length: 194p.
  • Publisher: Dial Press, paper, $16.99 (9780593532805)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12
  • 741.5973

On a family vacation to Disney World, Huda navigates her identity as a Muslim American as well as her relationship with her sisters

  • In Utero
  • By Chris Gooch. Art by the author
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 248p.
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions, paper, $24.99 (9781603095341)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12.
  • 741.5994

Twelve-year-old Hailey discovers both friendship and subterranean horrors when she attends summer day camp in an abandoned mall.

  • Ink Girls
  • By Marieke Nijkamp. Art by Sylvia Bi.
  • Release: 2023
  • Length: 288p.
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books, paper, $15.99 (9780063027107).
  • Reading Level: Gr. 3-7
  • 741.5973

Eleven-year-old disabled printer’s apprentice Cinzia attempts to liberate her mentor and hold the government accountable to the people it represents.

  • Just Another Story: A Graphic Migration Account.
  • By Ernesto Saade. Art by the author.
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 216p.
  • Publisher: Graphic Universe, paper, $17.99 (9798765623367).
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12.
  • 305.9.

A retelling of a story about a mother and son (Carlos and Elena) who leave El Salvador to come to the United States.

  • Lunar New Year Love Story.
  • By Gene Luen Yang. Art by LeUyen Pham.
  • Release: 2024.
  • Length: 352p.
  • Publisher: First Second, paper, $17.99 (9781250908261).
  • Reading Level: Gr. 9-12.
  • 741.5973.

Valentina grew up loving Valentine’s Day… until she learned that her family is cursed in love. After meeting Lion Dancer Les, can she break the curse?

  • Mall Goth
  • By Kate Leth. Art by the author
  • Release: 2023
  • Length: 244p.
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, paper, $14.99 (9781534476943).
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12.
  • 741.5973

Liv must deal with confusing friendships, inappropriate attention from a teacher, and a job at the mall as she starts over in a new school as a bisexual goth girl.

  • Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, vol. 1.
  • By Umi (REDICE STUDIO) and singNsong. Art by Sleepy-C
  • Release: 2023
  • Length: 237p.
  • Publisher: Ize Press, paper, $20.00 (9798400901065)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12
  • 741.5951

Dojka Kim, the lone devoted reader of an obscure web novel, is forced into unexpected action when the world of the story becomes real.

  • Run and Hide: How Jewish Youth Escaped the Holocaust
  • By Don Brown. Art by the author.
  • Release: 2023.
  • Length: 190p.
  • Publisher: Clarion Books, hardcover, $22.99 (9780358538165)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12
  • 940.5318

Brown tells the stories of how some children escaped the Holocaust through the heroic efforts of strangers and friends, as well as their own courage and quick thinking.

  • Super Boba Cafe.
  • By Nidhi Chanani. Art by the author.
  • Release: 2023.
  • Length: 215p.
  • Publisher: Amulet Books, paper, $16.99 (9781419759574).
  • Reading Level: Gr. 3-7
  • 741.5973

Aria’s summer in San Francisco with her grandmother, Jing Li, is full of boba, delicious food – and mystery.

  • The Fox Maidens
  • By Robin Ha. Art by the author
  • Release: 2024
  • Length: 308p.
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray, paper, $18.99 (9780062685124).
  • Reading Level: Gr. 7-12
  • 741.5973

As Kai fights for her dream of becoming a warrior like her father, she realizes a secret about her past that will change her destiny forever.

  • Wildfire
  • By Breena Bard. Art by the author
  • Release: 2023
  • Reading Length: 271p.
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, paper, $12.99 (9780316277655)
  • Reading Level: Gr. 3-7
  • 741.5973

After losing her home to a wildfire, Julianna and her family relocate to Portland; but Carson, the boy Julianna suspects was involved in starting the wildfire, shows up at her new school.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: The Fox Maiden by Robin Ha

  • The Fox Maidens
  • by Robin Ha
  • Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
  • Publication Date: February 13, 2024
  • ISBN-13: 9780062685124

All Kai Song wants to be is a warrior like her father, who happens to be commander of the Royal Legion. While her father does train her in martial arts, the rest of her community isn’t ready for a woman to be a warrior; not to mention, they believe that she is the granddaughter of Gumiho, the nine-tailed fox demon. On the day Kai starts her first period, she starts experiencing strange changes and finally learns about her mother’s past. At the same time, the family is targeted by assassins. Kai must maneuver all of this and learn to fight her own destiny to become who she wants to be.

The Fox Maidens takes a traditional Korean legend and turns it into a queer retelling featuring a strong female lead. Explanations before the story that describe the origins of the myth aid in world-building. The bold illustrations and vibrant colors draw you into the story so that you can almost feel the characters moving around you. Ha keeps you engaged throughout this fast-paced story that has both action and romance.

Readers who enjoyed the courageous lead in Squire by Nadia Shammas and Jen Wang’s romance in The Princess and the Dressmaker would enjoy this read. Anyone that has delved into the world of fantasy Korean Dramas similar to A Korean Odyssey or Guardian: The Great and Lonely God would also find this read very entertaining.

—Jessica Duong

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: October 10, 2023
Release Date: September 26, 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 (#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.