YA graphic novels are huge right now, and if you’ve not had the chance to dive into the format, then you’re definitely missing out on some amazing storytelling and beautiful artwork. Not sure where to start? We’ve rounded up 20 of the best graphic novels for teens for you to dive into. But be careful–they’re like potato chips. You can’t enjoy just one!
Note: Although we tend to throw around the term graphic novel to refer to all novel-length illustrated works, keep mind that there is some great graphic nonfiction for teens. This list of the best graphic novels for teens are a mix of fiction and nonfiction.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary O’Connell-Valero
Freddie has a bit of a problem–her girlfriend Laura Dean has a habit of breaking up with her on major holidays. Unsure of what to do about it but unable to let Laura slip away, Freddie turns to all corners to figure out her relationship, neglecting to see how her friendships are suffering right in front of her. This is a fantastic exploration of what love is and isn’t, and what it means to figure out relationships as a teen. It’s illustrated in such a dreamy way, it’s no wonder it snagged a Printz Honor!
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Okay, technically this is two graphic novels, but you’ll find you can buy them as a set at most outlets, and trust me, you’ll want both. It tells parallel stories of Little Bao, whose village is destroyed by Westerners and joins the opposition movement, and Vibiana, a girl who discovers a home with the missionaries after being rejected, and must decide if she’ll join their cause. These two volumes are an excellent, human look at a complicated history.
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll
Laurie Halse Anderson’s modern classic is given a graphic novel update with brilliant artwork by Emily Carroll! In this story, something bad happened to Melinda at the end of the school year, and now she’s starting high school where everyone hates her or is mad at her. She rarely speaks, because what’s the use? But then an art class and an unexpected refuge help Melinda heal, and she realizes that she must not only find her voice–she has to use it.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
In this delightful romp, best work friends Deja and Josiah have one last night together at the Pumpkin Patch, where they’ve worked every fall. Deja wants to make it count, and in an epic quest to eat all the wonderful snacks the place has to offer, she also tries to convince Josiah to reveal his feelings to his long-time crush…but the night doesn’t exactly go as planned! I love the fall palette and the detailed illustrations that bring this spectacular pumpkin patch to life!
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
In this moving memoir, Jarrett tells the story of his childhood and teen years, from the moment when he realized that his family wasn’t like other kids’ families. He was raised by his grandparents, two complicated and loving people who didn’t expect to raise their grandkid. As Jarrett grows older and tries to make sense of who he is and his parents, he also realizes the deep love his grandparents have for him, despite their faults. This is a really beautiful piece of artwork, as well as a great story–Jarrett uses ephemera from his childhood to create the artwork, and it’s just stunning. Don’t miss this National Book Award finalist!
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Windy Xu
Nova is a teen witch who spends her time helping out her grandmother and her partner in their bookshop, and investigating supernatural disturbances. When rumors of a wolf in the woods send Nova searching, she stumbles upon Tam, her childhood friend and werewolf. Tam is hurt and they need help fighting off a dark power that lurks in the woods, and Nova insists on helping them–but as the days stretch into weeks, Nova and Tam also find themselves falling for each other. This is a really sweet, magical story about fighting evil and also figuring out your own future.
Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
In this memoir, Maggie Thrash recounts one formative summer she spent at camp, where she became quite good in the shooting range and fell for her (older, female) camp counselor. This was in the early 2000’s, and LGBTQ+ relationships weren’t quite accepted, so Maggie dealt with this discovery all on her own, until it all came to a head at the end of camp. This is a really great memoir that has (without manipulation) a really excellent story arc, and the artwork does a really good job at evoking early 2000’s nostalgia.
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Anya is an outcast at her school, and she’s desperately in need of a friend. When she falls down an old well while walking home from school one day, Anya meets another girl, as lonely as she. They find friendship in one another, and Anya’s new ghost friend is pretty useful to have around…but she might not be telling the whole truth about her past. This is a sly and slightly creepy read, with fantastic artwork.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Lord Blackheart is a fantasy villain with revenge on his mind. He’s perpetually locked in battle against Sir Goldenloin, but all of that is disrupted one day when Nimona, a young shapeshifter appears at his door. Lord Blackheart doesn’t want a sidekick, but he has to admit that Nimona is pretty useful…but she’s got a secret past that is haunting her, and if he doesn’t get to the bottom of it, Nimona’s powers may overcome them all. This funny and irreverent graphic novel is a National Book Award finalist!
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
In this beautiful and expansive sci-fi graphic novel, dual timelines unfold: At a school on a space station in the middle of the galaxy, two classmates becomes friends, and maybe even begin to fall for each other. But then one night, one disappears. Years later, the girl that is left goes on to work for a crew that breaks down old space stations, but she’s never forgotten her friend…or given up hope that they can one day reunite. This book feels kind of dreamy, and it’s very imaginative in all of its details and world-building.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
If you like delicious and dark tales, this book is for you. In it, Carroll has illustrated five original graphic fairy tales that pulse with eeriness, beauty, and danger. From a mysterious new sister-in-law who is not what she seems to perilous journey to a neighbor’s house, these stories are perfect for reading under the covers at night, and the black, white, red, and blue color scheme is dramatic and bold.
March trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
In this National Book Award-winning trilogy, Representative John Lewis recounts his years working in the Civil Rights Movement along luminaries such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is a powerful but essential trilogy about an important time in American history, told from the point of view of someone who lived it. Definitely pick up the entire trilogy!
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer is arguably one of the most acclaimed graphic novels for teens–it won the Eisner and took home the Printz and Caldecott Honors. It’s about Rose, whose family always goes to their cabin on the lake each year. Her best summer friend Windy is there, and even though she’s younger than Rose, the two are close. But this one summer, Rose’s parents won’t stop arguing and she and Windy find themselves at odds over what to do–especially when they insert themselves into the dramas of some local teens. As the tensions boil over, it’s certain to be a memorable summer.
Grand Theft Horse by G. Neri and Corban Wilkin
This is the remarkable true story of Gail Ruffu, Neri’s cousin. Gail is a passionate horse lover and skilled racehorse trainer who believes in compassion, not cruelty. So when the co-owner of the horse she loved and trained insisted on racing him before he was ready, and then pushing him past his limits, Gail out her foot down and stole her own horse away on Christmas Eve. What followed was months and years of dodging private detectives, legal troubles, being blackballed from the CA racing scene, and ultimately a case that went to the CA Supreme Court. This graphic nonfiction story tells Gail’s backstory and her tenacity to protect the horses she loves, and fight for change in the racing industry.
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw
Mads’s life is pretty great–family, friends, and baseball every Sunday after church. But when her boy-crazy best friend begins pressuring Mads to reveal her crushes and get a boyfriend, Mads is sent into a tailspin of worry and self-doubt…because she might like girls, too. On top of that, her parents are keeping a big secret from her, and Mads is desperate to figure out what it is, so it can stop tearing her family apart–but once she does, it only makes her question her life even more. This is a fantastic graphic novel set in the mid-2000’s about family, faith, and identity, with really bold and energetic illustrations.
Almost-American Girl by Robin Ha
In this incredible memoir, Robin Ha recounts how she grew up the daughter of a single mom in Seoul. Her mom worked hard to build her business as a hair stylist, but one day she and Robin went on vacation to the U.S. and her mom broke the new that they weren’t going back. Devastated, Robin struggled to grasp this massive betrayal and life change, and adapt to life in the U.S. She went months without friends, until her mom enrolled her in art classes. This is a fantastic look at a major life change and how Robin struggled to process her feelings around it and understand her mother, ultimately forgiving her.
Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau
Ari can’t wait to move out of the house and into the city to start his real life, playing with his bad. But his family’s bakery is struggling, and they need his help. Then Ari finds the perfect solution: Hector. Hector loves to bake, and he needs a job. If Ari can train Hector as his replacement, he’ll be free to go. But when Ari begins falling for him, he’ll have to reconsider what he thought his future would look like, and what really matters to him. Illustrated in gorgeous hues of blue, this is another dreamy graphic novel must-read, especially if you have a sweet tooth!
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Prince Sebastian must find a wife, but he’s more interested in finding a good dressmaker. Enter Frances, who works wonders with a needle and becomes Sebastian’s friend and confidante–the only one who knows that Sebastian is also Lady Chrystallia, the mysterious fashion icon taking society by storm. But Sebastian’s secret is precarious, and Frances has her own dreams she wants to pursue, dreams that have been put on hold to help Sebastian. She can’t be Sebastian’s secret weapon forever. This sweet story is beautifully illustrated with pops of color that make Lady Chrystallia’s fabulous dresses stand out. Content warning: This book features an outing of a queer character that doesn’t sit well with all readers, so if that is a concern, we recommend doing more research on this book before picking it up.
Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu
Former ice skater and baker Eric Bittle has just started at Samwell University, and despite the fact that he’s very talented in many different areas, he’s totally unprepared to join the hockey team. Here, players can and do check, and then there’s also the matter of Jack, the team captain. He’s devastatingly handsome and also a bit grumpy, and Eric can’t help but fall for him. You can’t go wrong with this fun, upbeat graphic novel about college life and hockey, with a sweet romance tossed in. Plus, look out for a sequel!
Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCool and Emily Carroll
Masha has had enough of her home life and decides that what she needs is a proper adventure. So she seeks out the legendary witch, Baba Yaga, enters her house on chicken legs, and goes about convincing her that she needs an assistant. Baba Yaga is skeptical, but she puts Masha through her paces in a series of tests, and Masha will have to use all of her wits to prove that she has what it takes to become Baba Yaga’s Assistant. Illustrated by Emily Carroll, this is a wonderfully creepy and sly graphic novel!