Finding great graphic novels for teens is harder than sourcing tween graphic novels. Still, I was pleased to discover that there are several excellent options if your teens like young adult graphic novels. In this list, I’ve included mostly YA graphic novels with some upper middle grade graphic novel options for kids in their early teens.
And just a reminder: graphic novels are books too and have tons of benefits for readers.
The Best Graphic Novels for Teens
Here are 20 of the best graphic novels for teens:
Long Way Down
Published: October 24, 2017
A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator? Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.
Anne Frank’s Diary
Published: October 2, 2018
A timeless story rediscovered by each new generation, The Diary of a Young Girl stands without peer. For both young readers and adults it continues to capture the remarkable spirit of Anne Frank, who for a time survived the worst horror the modern world has seen—and who remained triumphantly and heartbreakingly human throughout her ordeal.
Published: March 17, 2020
Gene understands stories―comic book stories, in particular. Big action. Bigger thrills. And the hero always wins.
But Gene doesn’t get sports. As a kid, his friends called him “Stick” and every basketball game he played ended in pain. 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.
Go With The Flow
Published: January 14, 2020
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. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. 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 to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?
Almost American Girl
Published: January 28, 2020
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. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. 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.
The Oracle Code
Published: March 10, 2020
The #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp and artist Manuel Preitano unveil a graphic novel that explores the dark corridors of Barbara Gordon’s first mystery: herself.
After a gunshot leaves her paralyzed below the waist, Barbara Gordon must undergo physical and mental rehabilitation at Arkham Center for Independence. She must adapt to a new normal, but she cannot shake the feeling that something is dangerously amiss. Strange sounds escape at night while patients start to go missing.
Is this suspicion simply a result of her trauma? Or does Barbara actually hear voices coming from the center’s labyrinthine hallways? It’s up to Barbara to put the pieces together to solve the mysteries behind the walls.
In The Oracle Code, universal truths cannot be escaped, and Barbara Gordon must battle the phantoms of her past before they consume her future.
Published: May 12, 2015
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel has been hailed by critics and fans alike as the arrival of a “superstar” talent (NPR.org).
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
Wonder Woman Tempest Tossed
Published: June 2, 2020
Princess Diana of Themyscira believes that her 16th birthday will be one of new beginnings-namely, acceptance into the warrior tribe of the Amazons. But her birthday celebrations are cut short when rafts carrying refugees break through the barrier that separates her island home from the outside world. When Diana defies the Amazons to try to bring the outsiders to safety, she finds herself swept away by the stormy sea. Cut off from everything she’s ever known, Diana herself becomes a refugee in an unfamiliar land.
Now Diana must survive in the world beyond Themyscira for the first time-a world that is filled with danger and injustice unlike anything she’s ever experienced.
With new battles to be fought and new friends to be made, she must redefine what it means to belong, to be an Amazon, and to make a difference.
American Born Chinese
A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax.
All Together Now
Published: August 4, 2020
Middle-schooler Bina is having the best time playing in her new band with her friends, Darcy and Enzo. But both the band and her friendships begin to crumble when Darcy and Enzo start dating, effectively relegating Bina to third-wheel status.
To make matters worse, Bina’s best friend, Austin, starts developing a crush on her . . . one she is not sure she reciprocates. Now Bina must follow her heart. Can she navigate its twists and turns before the lights come up and the music starts playing?
Published: January 7, 2020
Twelve-year-old Cindy has just dipped a toe into seventh-grade drama—with its complicated friendships, bullies, and cute boys—when she earns an internship as a cub reporter at a local newspaper in the early 1970s. A (rare) young female reporter takes Cindy under her wing, and Cindy soon learns not only how to write a lede, but also how to respectfully question authority, how to assert herself in a world run by men, and—as the Watergate scandal unfolds—how brave reporting and writing can topple a corrupt world leader. Searching for her own scoops, Cindy doesn’t always get it right, on paper or in real life. But whether she’s writing features about ghost hunters, falling off her bicycle and into her first crush, or navigating shifting friendships, Cindy grows wiser and more confident through every awkward and hilarious mistake.
Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier
Published: February 4, 2020
The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years to catch up, but soon NASA’s first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trail-blazing women of Group 9, NASA’s first mixed gender class, had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman’s place is in space, but they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for everyone.
Published: January 2, 2018
Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.
The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list. Bruce is turning eighteen and inheriting his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Industries and all the tech gadgetry that he could ever desire. But on the way home from his birthday party, he makes an impulsive choice that leads to community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison. There, he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer with ties to the Nightwalkers. A girl who will only speak to Bruce. She is the mystery he must unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees?
Bruce Wayne is proof that you don’t need superpowers to be a super hero, but can he survive Madeleine’s game of tense intrigue and deception?
Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg journey to justice
Published: November 5, 2019
Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a modern feminist icon—a leader in the fight for equal treatment of girls and women in society and the workplace. She blazed trails to the peaks of the male-centric worlds of education and law, where women had rarely risen before.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said that true and lasting change in society and law is accomplished slowly, one step at a time. This is how she has evolved, too. Step by step, the shy little girl became a child who questioned unfairness, who became a student who persisted despite obstacles, who became an advocate who resisted injustice, who became a judge who revered the rule of law, who became…RBG.
The Deep Dark Blue by Niki Smith
Published: January 7, 2020
After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.
As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home. While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.
Published: August 18, 2020
Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II.
These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself “stuck” back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class. She witnesses the lives of Japanese-Americans who were denied their civil liberties and suffered greatly, but managed to cultivate community and commit acts of resistance in order to survive.
Kiku Hughes weaves a riveting, bittersweet tale that highlights the intergenerational impact and power of memory.
Published: July 15, 2020
The GLAAD Award nominated series Fence returns as a graphic novel series as best-selling novelist C.S. Pacat (Captive Prince) and popular online sensation Johanna The Mad present the next all-new thrilling chapter of the Kings Row fencing team! Just as Nicholas, Seiji and the fencing team at the prodigious Kings Row private school seem to be coming together, a deadly rival from their past stands in their way once more. MacRobertson is the school that knocked Kings Row out of the State Championships last year — but unless Nicholas and Seiji can learn to work together as a team, their school is doomed once again! And maybe those two can learn to be something more than teammates too…
Published: November 18, 2015
“What’s to Love: John Allison’s daily webcomics Bad Machinery and Scary Go Round are hilarious, the kind of strips where every panel makes you laugh out loud. As a result, John has earned a large, loyal following of readers that have followed his work daily for the past 12 years. Giant Days is an entertaining, slice-of-life look at three friends away at university, and is a series fans of things like Scott Pilgrim and Friends with Boys will not want to miss!
What It Is: Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery mold, nuchauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Collects issues #1-4.”
Boxers and Saints
Published: September 10, 2013
China,1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.
Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers – commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”
Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils” – Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.
Published: August 27, 2019
Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.
Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.
But this Halloween is different―Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.
Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if―instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut―they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .
What if their last shift was an adventure?
Published: October 9, 2018
The powerful, unforgettable graphic memoir from Jarrett Krosoczka, about growing up with a drug-addicted mother, a missing father, and two unforgettably opinionated grandparents.In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka’s teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett’s family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett’s life. His father is a mystery — Jarrett doesn’t know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents — two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what’s going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father. Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.
On a Sunbeam
Published: September 13, 2018
On a Sunbeam is the story of Mia, interwoven between her time as a rebellious schoolgirl at a boarding school in space and her time as crewmember aboard the spacecraft Aktis, where she travels the deepest reaches of space to rebuild and restore beautiful broken-down structures. As the past and present weave together, we discover more about Mia and her roots and how they connect with her present on Aktis. In Walden’s words, ‘The road ahead is not a comfortable, simple one.’
Walden’s inimitable style and presentation are more fully-formed and gorgeous than ever before as she works with her signature themes of sexuality and gender, the individual in landscape, first love and awesome cats.
This One Summer
Published: May 6, 2014
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something bad… Something life threatening.
It’s a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
This One Summer is a tremendously exciting new teen graphic novel from two creators with true literary clout. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of childhood – a story of renewal and revelation.
Published: November 9, 2021
Living in a new country is no walk in the park―Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challenges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self discovery, love, and family.
My Last Summer with Cass
Published: March 16, 2021
Megan and Cass have been joined at the brush for as long as they can remember. For years, while spending summers together at a lakeside cabin, they created art together, from sand to scribbles . . . to anything available. Then Cass moved away to New York.
When Megan finally convinces her parents to let her spend a week in the city, too, it seems like Cass has completely changed. She has tattoos, every artist in the city knows her. She even eats chicken feet now! At least one thing has stayed the same: They still make their best art together.
But when one girl betrays the other’s trust on the eve of what is supposed to be their greatest artistic feat yet, can their friendship survive? Can their art?
There they are: 20 of the best graphic novels for teens! Which one of these have you read? Which ones did I miss?
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