Over at the Bainbridge Library, I am responsible for all things Teen, which in our library system is grades 6-12. Teen years can be tough and they are tough on everyone. You’re trying to navigate changing relationships with your family and friends while trying to find your voice, identity, confidence and independence. In this issue of Lady Panels, I want to talk about some great graphic novels for teens that highlight a lot of these situations in creative, meaningful and relatable ways.
The following titles are great for young teens in grades 6-9. For those into fantasy elements, I highly recommend The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag. Ostertag deftly navigates the complex situation of accepting people as they are and being true to yourself while going against your family and community’s expectations of what is typical – and the whole happiness that prevails despite those difficulties. All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson centers around starting middle school from a homeschooling background and navigating new friendships while sticking up for yourself and your passions. Some other excellent titles that deal with similar themes are Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova and Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson. Each one of these authors and illustrators is exceptional at nailing the teen experience at this age.
For the 9th – 11th grade crowd, I recommend Lumberjanes. Starting in 2015, with Volume 7 expected in December, this title is equal parts funny, weird and empowering. Lumberjanes is the perfect blend of easy going humor with more mature themes and set in an accessible pseudo-fantasy world. For fans of sci-fi or horror, I recommend Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag or The Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland if you want something more menacing. For those who enjoy more realistic stories, I recommend Spinning by Tillie Walden, one of the best graphic novels I’ve read this year. Focusing on Walden’s 12-year figure skating career from ages 6-18, Spinning is a great read for teens who have actively been involved in sports and how it affects their lives and relationships as they grow into young adults. Similar reads include Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash and This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, both excellent.
For older teen readers (12th grade and beyond), Giant Days by John Allison and Lissa Treiman is my favorite. Taking place in England and beginning in late 2015, Giant Days follows three fresh-to-university roommates with different interests and different backgrounds. The series, now up to Volume 6, followed the girls through their first full year at university with all the change, hilarity and heartbreak that comes with it. Due to some mature themes, I highly recommend for older teens looking forward to college. For a similar but more supernatural vibe, I recommend Spell on Wheels by Kate Leth and Megan Levens, for fans of manga, Zodiac Starforce by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau.
Up Next: Let’s Talk About Webcomics!
Gabe Kusner is a Youth Services Librarian at the Bainbridge Branch. She is currently reading Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray. Available in the following formats:
Audiobook (CD Playaway Stream/Download)