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Best & Brightest Teen Graphic Novels 2020

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This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library staff to celebrate our favorite recently published teen books. Enjoy!

More of the Best & Brightest Books of 2020

Flamer
Written and illustrated by Curato, Mike
8th grade & up | Realistic Fiction. "It's the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone's going through changes—but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can't stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance." --From the publisher. Flamer addresses serious issues like suicide, racism, homophobia and toxic masculinity with a humorous tone. The teen narrator grapples with his sexuality and biracial identity amidst stark visuals, illuminated by a flame in intense moments of character development, making the illustrations as vibrant and powerful as the story itself.
The Dark Matter Of Mona Starr
Written and illustrated by Gulledge, Laura Lee
8th grade & up | Realistic Fiction. "Sometimes, the world is too much for Mona Starr. She’s sweet, geeky, and creative, but it’s hard for her to make friends and connect with other people, and her depression seems to take on a vivid, concrete form. She calls it her Matter. The Matter seems to be everywhere, telling Mona she’s not good enough and that everyone around her wishes she’d go away. But with therapy, art, writing, and the persistence of a few good friends, Mona starts to understand her Matter and how she can turn her fears into strengths." --From the publisher. The black and white drawings represent the doubt and fear that can suck the color out of one’s world. Along with the use of gold/yellow, the drawings highlight the journey of Mona’s healing. Relatable for all ages and leaves a lasting impression once finished.
Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir
Written and illustrated by Ha, Robin
8th grade & up | Autobiography. "For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together. So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother. Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined." --From the publisher. This coming-of-age and coming-to-America graphic memoir is a poignant depiction of culture shock that explores the uncomfortable experience of being in-between cultures from the relatable perspective of an awkward teenager. Author, illustrator and #OwnVoices protagonist, Robin Ha’s tender and honest visual details convey homesickness and the need of belonging.
Shadow Of The Batgirl
Kuhn, Sarah. Illustrated by Nicole Goux
7th grade & up | Superhero Comics. "Cassandra Cain is the daughter of super-villains and a living weapon trained from birth to be the ultimate assassin. But that doesn't mean she has to stay that way, right? She'll have to go through an identity crisis of epic proportions to find out. But how do you figure out who you're supposed to be when you've been trained to become a villain your entire life? When Cass's father threatens the world she has grown to love, she'll have to step out of the shadows and overcome her greatest obstacle—that voice inside her head telling her she can never be a hero." --From the publisher. This is a graphic novel filled with diverse and complex characters, that encourage the reader to be their authentic selves. This book demonstrates that it’s not always easy to break away from expectations, but the hope for a different future is stronger and gives courage to the reader who may deal with their own identity crisis.
Go With The Flow
Williams, Lily and Schneemann, Karen. Illustrated by Lily Williams
5th grade & up | Realistic Fiction. "Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen. Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs—or worse, squirms—at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices. Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how do you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?" --From the publisher. A strikingly colorful graphic novel full of diverse characters promoting period positivity. Abby and her friends have a unique and relatable relationship that has the power to create real change, inspiring the reader to do the same. The author sprinkles factual information throughout the text creating a fun learning environment for younger teens.
Dragon Hoops
Written and illustrated by Yang, Gene Luen
8th grade & up | Autobiography, Sports. "Gene understands stories—comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins. But Gene doesn’t get sports. He lost interest in basketball long ago, but at the high school where he now teaches, it's all anyone can talk about. The men’s varsity team, the Dragons, is having a phenomenal season that’s been decades in the making. Each victory brings them closer to their ultimate goal: the California State Championships. Once Gene gets to know these young all-stars, he realizes that their story is just as thrilling as anything he’s seen on a comic book page. He knows he has to follow this epic to its end. What he doesn’t know yet is that this season is not only going to change the Dragons’s lives, but his own life as well." --From the publisher. Charming, heartfelt and self-aware, this feel-good sports graphic novel is a collective memoir and experiment in storytelling that addresses issues of class, race, gender, religion, bias, fame and legacy in basketball. Told from the accessible tone of an outsider to the game, it will appeal to fans and non-fans alike.