This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library librarians to celebrate our favorite recently published teen graphic novels. Enjoy!
Best & Brightest Teen Graphic Novels of 2017
6th grade & up. Realistic Fiction. Jensen attends Berrybrook Middle School and he daydreams a lot. He daydreams about: saving his friends from a zombie apocalypse, being an astronaut and saving the world from sunspots and navigating the bullies at his school as if he’s playing a retro video game. He spends time with the art club and helps out the school newspaper, but where does he really fit in? Follow Jensen through a year at Berrybrook Middle School as he tries to figure out where he belongs and does his part to change the toxic bullying culture at his middle school. Although this book has a great message, it is also a funny, charming and relatable book that fans of Raina Telgemier and Victoria Jamieson will love.
Rickety Stitch And The Gelatinous Goo. The Road To Epoli
7th grade & up. Fantasy. Rickety Stitch is a minstrel skeleton, and out of a job at the local dungeon. Fortunately he’s acquired a new sidekick during his firing, a squishy blob named Gelatinous Goo (also known as Gooey, for short). When Gooey is taken prisoner by a two-headed giant, Rickety must find the heart of a pure blooded gnome in exchange for his freedom. What could possibly go wrong? Meanwhile, Rickety has no memory of who he once was, though does have continuous dreams of a strange song, which are illustrated in bold black and white versus the bright coloring on the rest of the pages. Creepy, surreal and hilarious all at once, this irreverently comedic fantasy series from Ben Costa is a great addition for fans of such titles as Nimona, Bone and Adventure Time.
6th grade & up. Fantasy. One of the most visually stunning young adult graphic novels to com out in 2017, Afar tells the story of Boetema and her younger brother Inotu as they try to navigate the absence of their parents, Inotu’s legal troubles and Boetema’s newly developed skill of unintentionally possessing the bodies of people light years away. Inotu, finds himself on the run after he’s caught eavesdropping on an illegal business deal between small town business tycoons and their cyborg bodyguard. When Boetema accidentally gets someone hurt while in another girl’s body, the siblings must work together to solve the problems they’ve created on their planet and others.
7th grade & up. Fantasy. Drew is a bullied kid in the Yonkers neighborhood of New York City whose family faces encroaching violence from Russian gangsters. Drew’s grandfather tells him the story of the golem, who helped Jewish people during other troubled times. Soon after his grandfather is murdered, and Drew discovers the secret of summoning the golem and protecting his neighborhood. A visually stunning story of loss, violence, and magic, Brik is a tightly spun tale with a surprise twist at the end guaranteed to enthrall a teen audience.
Lighter Than My Shadow
10th grade & up. Realistic Fiction. Lighter Than My Shadow is a beautifully hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery with anorexia and abuse. In this autobigraphical work, Katie shows what is like to struggle with crippling self-doubt and hate, and what it takes to come out on the other side. The story follows Katie’s experience of transitioning from a happy child to a teen struggling with some very challegning demons, all the way through to adulthood when she finally starts to love herself. Lighter Than My Shadow inspires readers to believe in the human power to endure towards happiness.
6th grade & up. Realistic Fiction. Invisible Emmie is a stupendously crafted and executed graphic novel that tells the story of two totally different girls—shy and artistic Emmie and popular athletic Katie, and how their lives unexpectedly intersect one day when an embarrassing note falls into the wrong hands. Libenson utilizes the graphoc format to its maximum potential by keeping shy Emmie’s sections of the book smaller and less colorful (like our character trying to hide) and making popular Katie’s sections bolder and brighter, like the character herself. Every shy kid in middle school will be able to relate to the agony Emmie feels just navigating her way through middle school, and readers will be blown away by the suprise twist ending!
The Time Museum
5th - 9th grade. Adventure, Science Fiction. It’s 2017 when aspiring scientist Delia finds out her beloved Uncle Lyndon is the curator of the Earth Time Museum. Along with five other teens from different times and places from far in the past to centuries in the future Delia competes for a coveted museum internship. The diverse sextet study, train and finally time travel to take their trials that involve evading dinosaurs, collecting anachronistic objects and sorting through scrolls at the Royal Library of Alexandria. Each teen has a different strength and it’s only by working as a team that their group can succeed. The full color artwork uses thick lines and a variety of panel layouts to bring this action-packed story to life. Detailed settings and costumes provide context as the group travels through time. Witty dialogue, friendship drama and imaginative time travel concepts make this a fantastic tween/teen graphic novel.
I Am Alfonso Jones
9th grade & up. Realistic Fiction. Alfonso Jones is a teenager who is excited about trying out for the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip hop version of the play, and is also looking forward to celebrating his father’s release from jail. While shopping for a suit for his father’s release, an off-duty cop mistakes a hanger for a gun and fatally shoots Alfonso. He wakes up in the afterlife on a train with other victims of police brutality. This graphic novel weaves together Alfonso’s journey and the aftermath of his shooting among his friends, family and community. As his community fights for him, Alfonso learns about other tragedies and what it will take to fight for justice. This book is not only beautiful and heart-rending, but it tells an important story of the Black Lives Matter movement and what they are fighting for.
7th grade & up. Realistic Fiction. Adaptor and illustrator Christophe Chabouté infuses new life beautifully into what has often been called the “Great American Novel.” This graphic novel uses intentionally slow pacing to show the depth of the novel’s central characters, Sailor Ishmael and Captain Ahab. Several chapters have very little to no dialogue, allowing the story to unfold visually. Contrasting black and white illustrations add to both the timelessness and darkness of the story, which focuses more on Ahab’s descent into madness versus the Great White Whale of its namesake. Original quotations from Melville’s classic are seamlessly incorporated. Chabouté’s adaptation is exceptional in comparison to other classic graphic adaptations, and no doubt brings accessibility to a wide range of readers.
Wonder Woman. Vol. 1, The Lies
9th grade & up. Adventure, Fantasy. Wonder Woman is one of the greatest and strongest superheros to ever exist; she can fly, fight and even deflect bullets. But perhaps her greatest power has always been to discern the truth. So what happens when Wonder Woman herself can’t remember what is true, and can’t find her way home? “The First casaulity of war is truth.” In this excellent standalone graphic novel, Wonder Woman battles gods of hyper masculinity and rekindles old love, all while trying to find her way home.
8th grade & up. Science Fiction. Eight years ago Colleen’s planet was taken over by a brutal alien race called the Derichets. They want the resources the planet has to offer, and don’t care how many native people they hurt. Colleen’s family are all missing or dead, and she lives alone in the small village she grew up in, while she goes to the city to work in a factory. Everything changes when Colleen hears that her long lost niece is still alive, and she meets a rebel named Jann. Just when she has finally found a new family, Colleen has to decide if it is worth risking to do what is right and resist the Derichets. This exciting story is filled with adventure, revolution and romance and is a great addition to the fantasy genre.
Cast No Shadow
6th grade & up. Fantasy. Greg was born without a shadow, although with all the weird happenings in Lancaster he’s pretty used to it by now. When Greg and his best friend go exploring in the town’s most rumored haunted house, he meets Eleanor -- the ghost of a young girl that only he is able to see. Between a changing group of friends, a new stepmom and an unexpected crush, can Greg also get his loose shadow under control? Tapalansky’s characters and Espinosa’s illustrations give examples of struggles young people can relate with, plus a supernatural twist. At times reminiscent of Friends With Boys, this new release has great appeal for a number of ages.
6th grade & up. Fantasy. Victoria and Katia are sisters attending boarding school on scholarships, and are having a tough time fitting in. On top of that, students have been mysteriously disappearing and the school is rumored to be haunted. Victoria, the older sister, tries hard to follow the rules and make friends, while younger Katia is an unapologetic rebel. When Katia runs away one evening, she befriends a group of ghosts sent by the scientist, Nikola, who has sinister plans for the young girl. Victoria and Nikola’s half-dead, half-alive son, Modie (also known as Little Ghost), must work together before it’s too late for Katia. Fans of Reina Telgemeir’s Ghosts and Doug TenNapel will delight in this eerie tale of family, friendship and acceptance.
Hawkeye : Kate Bishop, Vol. 1, Anchor Points
7th grade & up. Adventure, Fantasy. Sassy strong Katie Bishop (AKA Hawkeye) will blow you away in her standalone graphic debut! Fans of Nancy Drew or Veronica Mars will love this expertly illustrated and highly entertaining tale. While in search of her father, the more famous Hawkeye, Katie sets up a private eye office in Venice Beach, California, where she soon gets sucked into cases involving cyber bullying, bro culture and some monsters (both human and otherwise).
The Backstagers. Volume One: Rebels Without Applause
8th grade & up. Magical Realism. This delightful story follows Jory, who has just transferred to an all boy private high school and is struggling with feeling like the new kid. That all changes when he meets the Backstagers: the stage crew for the high school plays. Not only does he make some great new friends, but he is introduced to the incredible world that exists backstage - a magical alternate universe. Will they be able to find everything they need in the depths of the backstage to pull off the next play? Will Jory finally feel like he fits in at his new school? With great illustrations, a diverse cast of characters and a heart warming and enchanting story, The Backstagers is sure to appeal to middle schoolers and high schoolers alike.
9th grade & up. Realistic Fiction. Tillie Walden has spent the majority of her life as an ice skater. She wakes up early for skating practice, spends weekends competing and most of her free time involves thinking about skating. But is it what she really wants? Ice skating is a refuge from bullies and the realities of everyday life, but as Tillie gets more into art and falls in love with a girl for the first time, she starts to realize that it might not be her everything. This charming graphic novel is a great coming of age story about exploration and discovering your true self.
9th grade & up. Science Fiction. Nobody is really sure what the spill is. Was it an environmental disaster? A portal to another universe spilling into ours? The spill zone is a place that nobody is allowed to enter, a part of our world that was contaminated by unknown sources. There are still some people who manage to sneak through and explore the spill zone, and Addison is one of them. She goes to the spill zone and takes pictures, desperate to figure out what really happened the night of the spill that tore her family apart. This science fiction adventure is filled with creative, beautiful art, and will leave the reader with a sense of curiosity and excitement for the rest of the series.
Another Castle : Grimoire
6th grade & up. Fantasy. “Thank you, Mario! But our princess is in another castle!” Avid gamers and followers of traditional fantasy will enjoy this comic’s references to popular culture; however, there is something for just about everyone in this new series. Misty of Beldora is not an average princess living in an average fairytale. While she enjoys some of the traditional princess lifestyle -- carriages, dresses, makeup -- she refuses to be forced into a marriage with Prince Peter (possibly a reference to Princess Peach?), who isn’t particularly interested either. Meanwhile, when Misty is kidnapped by Badlug in order to be his bride, life takes more twists than she could bargain for. Armed with a group of unlikely new friends, can Misty find a way to change Grimoire for good? Bringing bold, brightly colored illustration, smart dialogue, timely themes and a cast of extremely diverse characters, Another Castle is a must read for fantasy and comics lovers alike.
Home Time. Book One, Under The River
6th grade & up. Adventure, Fantasy. School’s out for summer and Lilly, Amanda, Jason, Ben and David are ready to make the most of it before heading into high school. All of this changes after the gang falls into a river, and finds themselves in an alternate reality inhabited by magical forest creatures who call themselves Peaches. The Peaches believe the group are spirits sent to protect them from a foreboding enemy - at least, that’s what they say. Fans of Dungeons and Dragons and old video games will enjoy the book’s stylized drawing and references. With detailed and immersive illustration, a diverse cast of characters and timeless themes, Whyte’s debut graphic novel will no doubt appeal to many different age groups and audiences.
The Flash. Vol. 1, Lightning Strikes Twice
9th grade & up. Adventure, Fantasy. A new storm brews over Central City and disproves the old adage about lightning never strikes twice. Just as Barry begins to feel overwhelmed fighting crime, a new speedster debuts--but just where did this amazing new friend come from? And what happens when a new storm rolls through, creating multiple speedsters? Who can the fastest man alive really trust? A beatifully crafted tale about heroism, friendship and what it really means to be powerful. This is a great story for the seasoned superhero fan and newcomers alike!