Every year since 2007, the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, selects a variety of graphic novels suitable for readers age 12-18. The Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists provide both a snapshot of the year’s best titles suitable for young adult readers, but also a valuable selection tool for librarians who require good books which aren’t boring.
This year, the committee of librarians selected 103 titles from 178 official nominations. (Last year, it was 138 titles selected from 205.) A Top 10 list is also published, listing the best of both fiction and non-fiction titles.
This years Top 10 titles:
Bloom. By Kevin Panetta. Art by Savanna Ganucheau. First Second. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1626726413. A recent high school graduate, Ari, works in his family-owned bakery and plays in an indie band with 4 of his best friends in a small coastal town. When an accident occurs at the bakery, Ari has to rethink what he wants to do with his life and what will bring him happiness.
Cosmoknights: Book One. By Hannah Templer. Art by the author. IDW Publishing. 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 978-1603094542. Pan lives a very ordinary world on a planet called Verdian. She spends most of her time working in her father’s shop and hanging out with her friend, Tara, who is a princess. But when Tara’s life takes a very different turn, Pan gets a chance to bring down an archaic medieval-type jousting tradition.
I Was Their American Dream: a Graphic Memoir. By Malaka Gharib. Art by the author. Clarkson Potter. 2019. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0525575115. Malaka tells her story of being Filipino, Egyptian and American growing up in Cerritos, California. She details her life of being the “perfect Filipino kid” during the year with her mom while also trying to navigate the customs of her father’s home in Egypt during the summer.
Kiss Number 8. By Colleen AF Venable. Art by Ellen T. Crenshaw. First Second. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1596437098. The first seven kisses 16-year-old Amanda has experienced were less than exceptional. But after finding out that her father, her ultimate best friend, is keeping a secret from her, and realizing she may have a crush on Cat, her best friend from her conservative Catholic school, everything in Amanda’s life starts to shift. Which leads to her 8th kiss—the one that changes everything.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. By Mariko Tamaki. Art by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. First Second. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1626722590. Laura Dean has broken up with Freddy three times. Laura Dean keeps coming back and Freddy keeps taking her back despite Laura Dean’s blatant cheating. After visiting a medium, Freddy finds herself questioning whether or not Laura Dean can be monogamous and how she can get on with her life without Laura Dean.
The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey from Bondage to Freedom. By David F. Walker. Art by Damon Smyth, Marissa Louise. Ten Speed Press. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0399581441. The story of Frederick Douglass from his birth into slavery to his celebration by dignitaries is brought to readers in this spectacular graphic novel.
Pumpkinheads. By Rainbow Rowell. Art by Faith Erin Hicks. First Second. 2019. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1626721623. On their final night of work at DeKnock’s Pumpkin Patch, high school seniors and “Patch” friends Josiah and Deja decide to make their final shift an adventurous one as they explore the park’s many sights and tasty treats in search of the Fudge Girl, Josiah’s long-time, unrequited crush.
Simon & Louise. By Max de Radiguès. Art by the author. Conundrum Press. 2019. $18.00. ISBN: 978-1772620351. The school year is over and it’s time for Louise to leave on her family vacation for two months, leaving boyfriend Simon on his own. Within a day, Louise has changed her Facebook status to “single” and Simon has no idea why. Louise tells him her Dad forbids the relationship, but Simon refuses to accept that and leaves home to hitchhike to the beach town to win Louise back.
They Called Us Enemy. By George Takei and Justin Eisinger. Art by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf Productions. 2019. $19.99. ISBN: 978-1603094504. Before he was Sulu on the starship Enterprise, boldly going where no one has gone before, actor George Takei was a little boy struggling to understand why his family was packing up and going to live in a horse stable. Readers see history in a clear, concise, compelling context and follow Takei on his journey from childhood ignorance to righteous teenage anger and finally to a life of dedicated activism.
- Vol. 1. Kodansha Comics. $12.99. ISBN: 978-1632367709.
- Vol. 2. Kodansha Comics. $12.99. ISBN: 978-1632368041.
- Vol. 3. Kodansha Comics. $12.99. ISBN: 978-1632368058.
While not an official award, this list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens, based on quality and appeal, can be used to showcase titles worthy of further consideration by awards committees. Librarians are willing to consider graphic novels alongside “regular” books, as seen in the many graphic novels mentioned each year during the Youth Media Awards.
First Second was the big winner, with four titles in the Top 10, and 10 overall. IDW had two in the Top 10 (both via their Top Shelf imprint) and six overall. Marvel, not seen at most awards ceremonies, had eight titles overall, most of them featuring female teen characters. DC posted only two: Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, and Teen Titans: Raven, both of the relegated Ink imprint.
Of note are the adult imprints of Penguin Random House: Clarkson Potter and Ten Speed Press, both of the Crown Publishing Group. PRH does not have a distinct list of YA graphic novels, but does distribute many comics publishers such as Dark Horse, DC, Archie, IDW, and Kodansha. Ten Speed is one to watch, as they are not known for their graphic novels, but which have published some interesting titles.
Image appears to be the big winner with ten distinct titles overall, while Boom! Studios had nine. Manga publisher Seven Seas Entertainment charted with six titles, Viz had three, and Kodansha two.
Overall, almost every major (and many minor) comics publishers had items on the list, which further shows that libraries are a growing market for many publishers. Also of note, the many mainstream publishers with titles on this list, some of which are not known as graphic novel publishers. Even if you’re not a librarian, this list will help you discover titles you might have overlooked. Don’t be embarrassed to actually enter the Teen Space at your local library…there’s lots of good stuff to discover on the shelves! (And if you are embarrassed…log onto you library’s card catalog, and place a hold on the titles you want. You’ll probably need to do that anyway… graphic novels don’t stay on the shelves very long!)