What’s it about: A former hockey player struggling to keep it together find his life interrupted when his younger sister comes home years after disappearing. The siblings wrestle with violence and addiction, family and identity, and a constant sense of alienation.
What made me pick it up: I love Jeff Lemire.
My favorite things: I can’t remember where I read it, but someone described this as Fargo but in Canada and I can’t think of a better way to describe the cold, bleak tone. As always, Lemire’s art is stunning and perfectly fits the mood of the dark story and complex characters.
Who it’s great for: Fans of Lemire’s other work, particularly Essex County. Graphic novel readers looking for a family drama.
What’s it about: A graphic novel adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson’s 1999 young adult novel of surviving and struggling with the trauma of sexual assault.
What made me pick it up: I almost didn’t pick this up because the original novel was so devastating, but when I realized Emily Carroll (creator of Through the Woods) was the illustrator it I knew I couldn’t pass on it.
My favorite things: I appreciate that the story has been updated to be current and relatable to today’s readers. The graphic novel format centers and celebrates the importance of art in Melinda’s survival and recovery. For me, it was a relief that even though it is difficult to get through this was less devastating than the original novel.
Who it’s great for: Adults and teens grappling with understanding the continuing emotional and psychological toll sexual assault can take on survivors.
What’s it about: A graphic novel about a black teenage boy who is shot and killed by a police officer who mistook the hanger in his hand for a gun. The story follows his friends and family in the aftermath of his death and his own journey as those who have previously lost their lives to police violence lead him through the process of understanding and accepting his death.
What made me pick it up: A colleague put this on hold for me because she thought I was probably going to read it anyway.
My favorite things: Alfonso Jones is shot on the first page, but his story doesn’t end there. I love that we still get insight into his life and that the authors take the time to remember the details of the lives lost to police violence like Amadou Diallo and Anthony Baez. There’s an interesting juxtaposition I haven’t seen in fiction before between police treatment of black and brown men who haven’t committed violent crimes and that of typically white school shooters.
Who it’s great for: A good read for teens and adults looking to understand the motive for the Movement for Black Lives. Good for fans of The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and March.
What it’s about: Jomny, a lonely alien, is sent to Earth to study humans in this charming graphic novel. Instead, he encounters a variety of Earth’s creatures and, through their humanity, learns some of life’s biggest lessons.
What made me pick it up: When I saw the word aliebn on a book spine I thought my fever brain was playing tricks on me, but after I took a closer look I needed to know more about these aliebns.
My favorite things: It was adorable, funny, poignant, and smart. Each of the creatures Jomny meets teaches him something new about what it means to be an individual and still be part of a community. Like the story, the art is simple but compelling. I especially enjoyed the endpapers of the book, which contained a log Jomny keeps of his adventures on Earth as well as his charming interpretations of each interaction.
What it’s about: In this second book of the Lowriders in Space series, three friends close their garage and journey to the center of the earth to rescue their cat, Genie, from Mitlantecuhtli the Aztec god of the underworld.
What made me pick it up: This was recommended and lent to me by a coworker.
My favorite things: Camper’s liberal use of Spanish vocabulary (with translation in footnotes and a glossary at the end of the book) adds depth to the story. The translations appear after only the first time each Spanish word appears and I appreciated the assumption that the readers are capable of learning terms that might be new to them. The art, making use of only blue, red, and black, is fun and engaging and has the feel of something that might have started as a (very impressive) doodle.
Who it’s great for: Tweens looking for a fun adventure with a bit of mythology thrown in the mix.
What it’s about: Set in the politically charged late 1960s Chicago, a young girl struggles to solve the mystery behind the death of her strange and alluring upstairs neighbor. She lives her life through monsters and horror films, desperately trying to escape the reality of her family’s struggles and her own outcast status.
What made me pick it up: I read a preview of this that made it sound incredible. (It was.)
My favorite things: First, let me just say that I was so pleased to find “Book One” written on the spine because this volume opens up far too many threads to close. The story is mysterious, heavy, exciting, and grim, and it pulls you in from the beginning. The art is made up of these beautifully crosshatched panels made up to look like the notebook of a young girl, and Ferris effortlessly recreates classic works of art in her own style.
Who it’s great for: Fans of graphic novels looking for monsters, murder, mystery, or history.
What it’s about: A graphic memoir exploring love, art, loss, memory, and mortality.
What made me pick it up: I can’t seem to pass up a graphic memoir.
My favorite things: Radtke’s art is done in a simple grayscale that perfectly complements her story. I loved the way she tied together her own restlessness with an examination of mortality. The way she chronicles her own loss and grief through a growing fascination with deserted towns is honest and compelling.
Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an engaging exploration of mortality and meaning. Fan’s of artists’ memoirs.
Originally published in: original 2007, in translation 2017
What it’s about: A graphic memoir chronicling relationships and family dysfunction, love and heartache.
What made me pick it up: I gravitated toward it the moment it showed up on our cart of new books – the bleak cover art was immediately compelling to me.
My favorite things: The art, the art! Written over the course of twelve years, the art varies in style and medium and still somehow fits together to paint a portrait of a life through time. Complexities and heartaches of real life, honest about flaws, weaknesses, and mistakes. I love the use of handwriting rather than a font for an even more expressive read.
Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an emotionally engaging exploration of family and relationships.
What it’s about: A reimagining of many of HP Lovecraft’s stories through the lens of Robert Black. Black is a journalist and would-be author living in the 1919 world of Lovecraft’s fiction. Act 1 compiles 1-4 of 12 issues in the Providence series.
What made me pick it up: I just rediscovered it on my bookshelf, it was next on my TBR list at some point last fall.
My favorite things: The art is bleak and ominous. There is an unsettling recurring theme hinting at the coming rise of Nazi power in Europe. I love the inclusion of journal entries and paraphernalia from the world Robert Black is exploring.
Who it’s great for: Devotees of Lovecraft’s stories and fans of Alan Moore’s comics and graphic novels. Readers looking for a short but captivating creepy series to become immersed in.
What it’s about: A collection of excerpts from several different series of comics. Each focuses on the lives and identities of different queer and gender-nonconforming people and their relationships with the the author.
What made me pick it up: It sounded cute and I liked the cover. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
My favorite things: I love the artistic style! It reminds me of those filters you can use to make a photo look like a painting. There is also a great range of topics, from crushes to fashion to pronouns, each handled with both lightness and care. This reads like a beautiful celebration of queer identities.
Who it’s great for: Anyone looking for graphic novels with diversity in gender and sexuality. Fans of Bechdel’s graphic memoirs.