What’s it about: The story of two friends, partners in art and life, creating animated works that bring them a sort of fame while also forcing them to confront difficult truths and traumas in their lives that other people would like to leave in the past.
What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook to listen to and this one was available, has gotten a lot of good press, and has a cover that makes me want to read it.
My favorite things: Whitaker treats characters suffering addictions almost without judgment in a way that is refreshingly humane. She takes the time to develop every character’s layers and the complexity of their relationships.
Who it’s great for: Readers looking for complex relationships between characters or an exploration of identity.
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.
What it’s about: This is a nearly comprehensive collection of Bechdel’s syndicated strip that ran from the mid 1980’s-2008. It follows a group of politically engaged friends, almost exclusively lesbians, as they navigate societal and personal drama.
What made me pick it up: Although this has been out for nearly a decade, it was new to our library, and I’m a big fan of Bechdel’s graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are you My Mother?
My favorite things: I enjoyed reading this as a sort of queer retrospective on political history from the mid-80’s through the 2008 election. Bechdel’s characters are fun but complicated and both lovable and frustrating.
Who it’s great for: Fans of Bechdel’s other works. Committed Doonesbury readers.
What it’s about: Wade Watts spends nearly all his time in the immersive virtual world that is the OASIS. He begins to solve the puzzle left by the creator of the world which has stumped players for decades. His progress leads to immediate fame and marks him as a target for other obsessed members of the OASIS.
What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook STAT – this one was available and had been lost somewhere in my to-read list for a while. I was a few years late to pick this one up-but I loved it so much I immediately sought out Cline’s next book, Armada.
My favorite things: Full disclosure: I don’t really have a lot to say about video games or 80’s pop culture, but I found Cline’s enthusiasm for both infectious and it somehow made me really care about the players in the OASIS. He does a great job of making a puzzle in a virtual world feel urgent and meaningful, and even finds the time for a little virtual romance. Wil Wheaton reads the audiobook and he’s so perfect for it that I wonder if Cline wrote it with him in mind.
Who it’s great for: Fans of video games, from the classics through mmorpgs, and DnD die-hards. 80’s pop culture buffs. Readers looking for an exciting dystopian adventure.
Best Graphic Novel: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: Set in the same universe as Greenberg’s 2013 debut The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, a storyteller weaves tales for 100 nights to protect her true love from a lecherous man.
What made me pick it up: l loved The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and was excited to see what Greenberg would create next.
My favorite things: “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORLD AND IT WAS WEIRD.” Greenberg starts off with a bang and doesn’t fail to deliver. Her artistic style is one of my favorites and I’ve found myself flipping through repeatedly to find specific scenes that I loved. This is a kind of adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights/The Arabian Nightsthat expertly flips the script into a queer feminist retelling. The characters in each tale are as compelling and important as those in the framing story and include several strong women working to overcome dire situations to be independent.
Who it’s great for: Fans of fables and folklore. Readers looking for a collection of stories about love of all kinds. Fans of Audrey Niffenegger’s illustrated works.
Did you come across any graphic novels or audiobooks this year that you can’t stop talking about?
What it’s about: Shay Summers is struggling through being fifteen. She’s trying to cope with her father’s death, her best friend’s terminal illness, a school bully, being overweight, and the ache of an unrequited crush. But then she finds love in a chat room.
What made me pick it up: This one was recommended to me by a colleague.
My favorite things: StVil tells this story in verse and in instant/text message – and she does it very effectively and intentionally. The characters make a lot of use of the medium, reveling in the anonymity and using fonts to flirt and fight. The teen angst and heartache is too real and perfectly captured, and the excitement over blossoming romance is palpable and infectious. I love that StVil wrote an overweight character without hinting at weight-loss, it’s definitely something I’d like to see more often.
Who it’s great for: Teens who feel like they’ll never fit in and never find love. Those dealing with the death or terminal illness of a loved one. Reluctant readers. Fan’s of Isabel Quintero’s 2014 young adult debut, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.
What it’s about: A memoir by Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace that explores her experiences with gender dysphoria and transition while tracing her life has a musician.
What made me pick it up: Oh man, I pre-ordered this the moment I heard it was going to be published. Grace has been a longtime hero of mine, her music was the backing track to my later teen years, and so I was thrilled to see she’d be penning something longer than a few verses.
My favorite things: The inclusion of journal entries within the narrative is well done and offers a more intimate understanding of Grace’s experiences, making it all more real and easier for the reader to empathize. I also appreciated them because I got a little bit of thrill each time I spotted a line in one of her entries that became a lyric or song title. The way she considers difficult questions that follow her coming out is eye-opening. How does her identity impact her wife’s understanding of her own sexuality? Will she still be Daddy to her young daughter? Grace is brutally honest about herself and her band and it is in turns infuriating and heartbreaking. She has no trouble opening up about all of her experiences and emotions, from depression and self-loathing to anger and entitlement.
Who it’s great for: Memoir readers seeking drama and dirt. Fans of Against Me! who don’t mind reading harsh words about the rest of the band. Anyone looking for a painfully honest story of transition and redemption.
Pick up a copy of Tranny at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.
What it’s about: Popular Youtuber Hannah Hart on overcoming her challenging childhood and figuring out her adult life.
What made me pick it up: I read Grace Helbig’s book Grace’s Guide a few months ago, which was fun and relatable and all about adulting. Since she is a frequent collaborator and friend of Hart’s, when I saw this book was being published I made sure to get it ASAP.
My favorite things: This gave a very unguarded look at Hart’s life including her mental illness, the difficulty of expressing her budding sexuality, and the untreated schizophrenia of her mother. I really like her frankness as well as her unequivocal stand that something is wrong with our treatment of mental illness in this country. She’s good at balancing moments of levity with moments of seriousness.
Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who has suffered with mental illness or had someone close to them suffer. People who watch Hart on YouTube and want to know more of her story. Someone in the mood for a memoir.