Alice Oseman Recommends Her Favorite YA Graphic Novels

Posted by Sharon on May 27, 2020
Author and illustrator Alice Oseman is known to her long-time fans for her young adult novels about—as she calls them—"teenage disasters," starting with her debut book, Solitaire. In 2016, Oseman began self-publishing Heartstopper, a serialized webcomic about two of the side characters from Solitaire. This month, the series becomes available in a US edition for the first time, with Heartstopper: Volume One publishing on May 5. To mark the US release, Oseman shared her favorite graphic novels for and about young adults with Goodreads.

Oseman is a two time Goodreads Choice Award nominee. Her next novel, Loveless, will be published in July.

Comics and graphic novels are typically thought to be for adults (superheroes, literary graphic novels, and newspaper comic strips) or children (magazines, illustrated fiction, and picture books). Teenagers and young adults have often been a little left out. But over the past few years, alongside the growth of young adult fiction in general, it has been amazing to witness a rise in graphic novels written and drawn for teens, including my own YA series, Heartstopper.

My debut graphic novel, Heartstopper: Volume One, didn’t enter the scene in a traditional way. Heartstopper was originally (and still is) a webcomic, serialized for free online, and I got my first taste of YA comics through online webcomics on sites like Tumblr, Tapas, and Webtoons. Indie comic artists have been posting their comics online, usually free-to-read, on sites like these for many, many years, but now many of these artists are breaking into traditional publishing too.
Indie comics often explore themes that are more difficult to find in traditional media. In the online world of webcomics, stories of all genres with marginalized leads, often created by marginalized authors and artists, find the space to shine, and it’s so important for teenagers in particular to see and read these stories. I have been so happy that these creators and stories are being welcomed into the traditional publishing world—slowly, but surely—and I really hope that this inclusion continues in years to come.
Graphic novels and comics are my favorite thing to read, so I’m very excited to have been given the opportunity to share some of my faves with you—all of which center around teenagers and young adults.

Tillie Walden is my favorite graphic novelist. Her artwork is minimal, but packed with emotion, and so much is said in her works with relatively little dialogue. Spinning is a graphic memoir about Walden’s life as a teen figure skater, and how the intense, demanding world of ice skating influenced her struggle to come to terms with being gay.

If you’re looking for something utterly uplifting, The Prince and the Dressmaker is an excellent choice. Jen Wang’s standalone graphic novel follows Prince Sebastian, who secretly dons dresses and heads out on the town, and dressmaker Frances, one of two people who know his secret. A fairy tale with queer themes for all ages—this is a beautiful story that explores “identity, young love, art, and family.”

It’s wonderful to see more LGBTQ+ manga titles being opted for translation in recent years. Our Dreams at Dusk follows gay high schooler Tasuku Kaname who, while at his absolute lowest, finds a small group of other LGBTQ+ individuals from different backgrounds, and through them he finds hope, new friends, and maybe even family.

Bloom is a sweet standalone romance graphic novel centered on two boys at a bakery. If that wasn’t enough of a sell, the artwork in this is stunning, characterful, and printed in a calming soft blue tone. If you’re looking for something stress-free to read all in one go in an afternoon, this is it!

Many comics and graphic novels find their voice online through crowdfunding campaigns, which is how Electrum was created. Electrum is a gorgeous graphic novel anthology that brings together 26 mixed-race artists to create short comics—some non-fiction, some fiction—that explore “the joy, the insecurities, and the unique strengths that come with being mixed-race.” Many of these stories focus on teenagers and young adults—a time when many of us are figuring out our feelings about our identities.

It’s possibly a little bit cheating to include two books by the same author on this list, but Tillie Walden is my fave and I’m biased. And On a Sunbeam is a very different story to Spinning. On a Sunbeam is an epic story set in space, following a group of teens who excavate and rebuild “beautiful and broken-down structures,” while protagonist Mia thinks constantly about the girl she loves, who is somewhere out there in the universe.

As a webcomic artist myself, I had to share my favorite webcomic of all time, which is Long Exposure by Mars. Long Exposure follows nerdy teen Jonas and his ex-bully Mitch who both develop superpowers after encountering a strange research site in the woods. Queer romance, mystery, and supernatural drama—this webcomic has everything, and dynamic, character-led artwork to boot. While Long Exposure is coming to a close, Mars is currently working on a new webcomic called Ride or Die, which I am incredibly excited for!

I went into this book expecting a romance, but what I found was so much more. It’s rare even in YA prose fiction to find stories that explore emotionally abusive relationships, particularly between queer teens, but Laura Dean explores exactly that with stunning artwork from Valero-O’Connell. The splashes of pink alongside greyscale make this book truly beautiful.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a graphic memoir, chronicling author/artist Eleanor Crewes’ journey through her adolescence and young adulthood towards discovering and accepting that she is gay. This book has an unusual format that reminded me of a social media feed—single illustrations mixed with text, rather than a typical comic’s panel-based layout. It’s poignant, relatable, and very funny too.

I couldn’t write a graphic novel recommendation list without including webcomic classic Check, Please! After seven years of online updates, Ngozi Ukazu’s ice-hockey/romance/slice-of-life webcomic concluded this year (to many tears!) and it has now been published in full in two gorgeous physical editions. It’s safe to say that Check, Please! influenced a huge number of webcomic creators and graphic novelists, and will remain a YA comics classic for many years to come.

Do you love reading YA graphic novels? Which of these recommendations catch your eye? Let's talk books in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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Kara (bookishskippy) LOVELY LIST OF BOOKS! THANK YOU!

message 2: by aru (new)


message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Haider I love the Heartstopper books and The Prince & the Dressmaker is also a favorite. Nice list. I've also read a handful of these and a few more are now on my TBR.

message 4: by Katsuro (last edited May 27, 2020 04:19AM) (new)

Katsuro "Comics and graphic novels are typically thought to be for adults (superheroes,)"

Aren't superhero comics mostly regarded as being for teens, though? In practice, the continuity is often so complex that you need to be an old-timer like me to keep up with it. I'll admit that. But stylistically, superhero comics are usually written for teens.

On-topic, I'd have enjoyed seeing more manga, or some sort of translated comics, on the list. The comics world is vast and glorious, and there's no need to limit yourself almost completely to what's produced in just one language. :)

message 5: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle Creepy recommends!

message 6: by Diana (new)

Diana Prince This list is full of so many iconic YA powerhouse graphic novels. I always wished that we had more books like this when I was a young baby gay, and I'm so infinitely grateful that I have a list like this (from one of my favorite authors, no less!!) to pass on to my 13 year old lesbian younger sister, who is always looking for more books that she can truly see herself in. Thank you!!

message 7: by Ben (new)

Ben Howard Love the hearstopper series!

Definitely going to check these out.

◡̈ bisma ◠̈ I'm gonna check all of these out! I love graphic novels so much I can't wait to read the ones I haven't read yet ♡

message 9: by Celeste (new)

Celeste Thank you so much for the recs!! I’ve never heard of more than half of these and I can’t wait to check them out!

message 10: by slaygela (new)

slaygela Thank you so much for so many great recs!! <3

message 11: by Brigid (new)

Brigid Whoops. Just added the one book that wasn't already on my TBR hi.

message 12: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Lavoie I’ve seen some of these on Amazon! All in my wishlist now!

message 13: by Angel (new)

Angel Du love Oseman, interested to check out her recommendations

message 14: by Ms. Arca (new)

Ms. Arca Yayyy! Read almost all of these and I couldn’t agree more she chose great books and I’m not surprised !! This list makes me happy, shout-out to Alice!

message 15: by Adel (new)

Adel I never went to go this place

message 16: by MFCOMMAND (new)

MFCOMMAND I backed the Electrum Kickstarter! Great stuff for sure!

message 17: by AK (new)

AK Nephtali ME: I will never respond to promotional DMs! They're blatant money-grabbing ploys.

ALSO ME: Ooh... new books, you say? That Alice Oseman likes, no less! They're so shiny. Take my money and my soul*!

*I'm a mostly broke college student so you'll probably have to take the latter.

message 18: by aru (last edited May 28, 2020 06:09AM) (new)

aru AK wrote: "ME: I will never respond to promotional DMs! They're blatant money-grabbing ploys.

ALSO ME: Ooh... new books, you say? That Alice Oseman likes, no less! They're so shiny. Take my money and my soul..."

the broke college student practically forced me to reply - i relate so much

message 19: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle AK wrote: "ME: I will never respond to promotional DMs! They're blatant money-grabbing ploys.

ALSO ME: Ooh... new books, you say? That Alice Oseman likes, no less! They're so shiny. Take my money and my soul..."

I agree!

message 20: by ClaraBelle (new)

ClaraBelle Adel wrote: "I never went to go this place"
Me neither. Don’t want to

message 21: by Lilyy (new)

Lilyy This was such an amazing list of recs ❤️

message 22: by Julia (new)

Julia Hamilton ClaraBelle wrote: "Creepy recommends!"
Why? Because some of the books are lqbtq? I have read almost all f these and assure you there is nothing creepy, they are all pretty heartwarming. :/

message 23: by Leela (new)

Leela just bookmarking this for later

message 24: by Loren (new)

Loren Greene Great list!

message 25: by sarahlauv (new)

sarahlauv *writing them all down* THANKS QUEEN

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