The Young Adult Library Association (YALSA) of the ALA (American Library Association) recently revealed its own list of “Great Graphic Novels for Teens,” for the 2021 year ahead.
This list was comprised by a committee of librarians from across the U.S. and one from the American Library in Paris. This selection of 126 titles narrowed down from 145 nominations. Each book is considered suitable for readers aged 12 to 18, and selected to “meet the criteria of both good quality literature and appealing reading for teens.” That list can be viewed on their website at www.ala.org/yalsa/2021-great-graphic-novels-teens.
Also for YALSA, a team of librarian bloggers handpicked a top Ten list of graphic novel reads for young adults. That list is as follows…
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha. Balzer and Bray (HarperCollins) – Ha discusses the challenges of moving to America from her childhood home in South Korea, providing an honest and thoughtful perspective on being an outsider, finding your community, and how it feels to return to a home you’ve left behind.
Blue Flag (volume 1-5) manga by Kaito (Viz Media) – An unexpected love quadrangle forms when Taichi agrees to help Futaba pursue her crush, Toma, while friend Mami looks on. But Toma has feelings for someone else, and as friendships and romantic relationships develop, nothing is as clear cut as it seems.
Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill (Oni Press) – Joel Christian Gill narrates what it was like for him to grow up in a single-parent household in the 1980s, from childhood to young adulthood—Black, broke, and surrounded by uncertainty.
Go With the Flow by Karen Schneemann, art by Lily Williams (First Second / Macmillan) – Fed up with the empty tampon and pad dispensers at Hazelton High School, sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha decide to start a “menstruation revolution.” Through blog posts, letter-writing campaigns, and online fundraisers, the girls work together to make change.
Guantánamo Voices: True Accounts from the World’s Most Infamous Prison by Sarah Mirk, art by Gerardo Alba, Kasia Babis, Alex Beguez, Tracy Chahwan, Nomi Kane, et al. Abrams (ComicsArts / Abrams Books) – 2 Narratives about the infamous Guantánamo prison are illuminated in this anthology by multimedia journalist Sarah Mirk and a team of talented artists.
The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, art by DaNi. (Hill House Comics / DC Comics) – El and Vee black out and lose time in a movie theater. While trying to figure out what happened, the girls uncover horrifying secrets about their community that span generations.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. (Random House Graphic / Penguin Random House) – Tiến is a first-generation Vietnamese American who struggles with coming out of the closet to his parents. Will Tiến find a way to connect in the fairytales he shares with his mother?
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh. (First Second / Macmillan. 2020) – Snap knows witches aren’t real, but when her dog goes missing, she checks at the local witch’s house just in case. From there, an unlikely friendship begins, and Snap discovers that witches may be real after all.
Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru. (DC Comics) – In 1946, Lan-Shin (Roberta) Lee and her family move from Chinatown to central Metropolis and attempt to fit in with their neighbors. But when the Klan begins harassing the Lees, Roberta must team up with new friends to help Superman take down the Klan in this smart, action-packed adventure.
Wonder Twins, Volume 1 and 2) by Mark Russell, art by Stephen Byrne (DC Comics) – In this humorous and satirical reboot, alien twins Zan and Jayna have to balance their lives as high schoolers in Metropolis while trying to figure out if their actions as heroes are actually helping to solve any of the world’s real issues.
Overall, both lists are great with a nice look back at the best of 2020. But, also important is that much on this list holds a variety of genres, a mix of non-fiction and fiction, and full of ethnic and cultural diversity in both the art and creators involved. This list can be useful at all comic stores as a well, while we wait for the libraries to reopen.