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 (#GGN2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

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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.2. By Natsu Hyuuga. Art by Nekokurage. Square Enix Manga, $10.99 (9781646090716). 

Maomao’s adventures as the official royal test taster continue! In this volume, Maomao faces the intrigues of the royal court while dealing with poisoning attempts against the Emperor’s wives.

Asadora! v.4. By Naoki Urasawa. VIZ Media / VIZ Signature, $14.99 (9781974722969). 

A lighthouse has been attacked by something resembling a giant creature, and Asa is called in by the government to find the monster before the Tokyo Olympics. With the monster’s reappearance, Asa continues the search for her family.

Blue Flag, v.8. By KAITO. VIZ Media, $12.99 (9781974720941). 

The conclusion of Blue Flag sees almost everyone’s secrets revealed and concludes the main characters’ romantic arcs.

Blue Giant Omnibus, v.1-2. By Shinichi Ishizuka. 2020. Seven Seas Entertainment, $19.99 (9781645058649). 

Dai is graduating soon, and while his friends are all cramming for exams, he spends every day playing his sax. Dai is going to be the world’s greatest jazz musician, and to be the best, he will need more than just passion.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Heaven’s Design Team, v. 1–4 by Hebi-zou, Tsuta Suzuki, and Tarako

Heaven’s Design Team, v. 1–4 by Hebi-zou, Tsuta Suzuki, and Tarako
Kodansha Comics / Kodansha USA
Publication Date: October 20, 2020; December 9, 2020; February 23, 2021; March
30, 2021
ISBN: 9781645611136, 9781646511297, 9781646511303, 9781646511310

Instead of creating every individual animal, God decided to outsource the work to a design team. The team of angels consists of six designers, an engineer who tests if the animals will function in the real world, and two liaisons who act as project managers. Volume one opens on new liaison Shimoda’s first day, and we follow along as he meets the team and learns how the designers work to create animals that fit God’s often vague specifications. Each chapter closes with a few short encyclopedia entries on the real animals that are featured.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Heaven’s Design Team, v. 1–4 by Hebi-zou, Tsuta Suzuki, and Tarako

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2020) Nominees Round Up, November 7 Edition

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

Best Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeYuen Pham
First Second
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
ISBN: 978-1250317452

Shannon heads into sixth grade full of confidence and hope for the best year ever. Her best friend Jen is the most popular girl in school, and Shannon’s friends “The Group” are ready to rule the school at her side. But the final year of middle school soon turns into a minefield of dos and dont’s, and Shannon struggles to keep up with what’s cool and what’s not. Some boys are cute; some boys are weird. This TV show is a must-watch; this song is lame. Prank calls are funny; playground games are for babies. Girls should be pretty; girls should not be goofy. Shannon finds it nearly impossible to guess the right way to act and the rights things to say, and pressure to fit in with the in-crowd sends her anxiety levels through the roof. Stepping out from Jen’s shadow might be the only way for Shannon to be true to herself—even if it means admitting that her best friends aren’t the right friends anymore.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2020) Nominees Round Up, November 7 Edition