YALSA's 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list has been released.
The Top Ten is:
Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale. By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Illus. by Francesco Francavilla.
Bad Machinery V.3: The Case of the Simple Soul. By John Allison. Illus. by the author.
47 Ronin. By Mike Richardson. Illus. by Stan Sakai.
In Real Life. By Cory Doctorow, illus.by Jen Wang.
Ms. Marvel: V.1. No Normal. By G. Willow Wison. Illus. by Adrian Alphona.
Seconds: a Graphic Novel. By Bryan Lee O’Malley. illus. by the author.
The Shadow Hero. By Gene Luen Yang. Illus. by Sonny Liew.
Through The Woods. By Emily Carroll.
Trillium. By Jeff Lemire. Illus. by the author.
Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki. By Mamoru Hosoda. Illus. by Yu.
As I only just read The Shadow Hero a couple of days ago, I haven't written about it yet. This is as good a time as any! According to Gene Luen Yang's author's note, back in the day—in 1944—a cartoonist named Chu Hing created a superhero called the Green Turtle. It's rumored that he wanted to make the hero Chinese, but the publisher balked because he was concerned that audiences wouldn't take to an Asian hero (the more things change...). And so—AGAIN, STILL RUMOR—Hing got around that by going out of his way to always draw the Green Turtle with his face obscured in some way. Although Hing's career continued, the Green Turtle's adventures only lasted for five issues.
In The Shadow Hero, Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew give the Turtle a face, a family, a mission, and an origin story. He's the American son of Chinese immigrants, and he aspires to eventually run his father's grocery store in Chinatown. After a run-in with a famous superhero, Hank's mother—who, until then, hadn't been particularly invested in her son—decides that he's going to be a superhero, and she sets out to make that happen.
It's about family and identity, teamwork and trust. Like any good origin story, there's joy in testing newfound powers, but there's plenty of tragedy, too. While it's not the focus of the story, The Shadow Hero doesn't shy away from or avoid dealing with racism and stereotyping, and it points out the offensiveness of some long-standing story tropes—like yellowface—simply by using them in a story that stars Asian characters. (One would hope that most readers would already see the problematic elements surrounding and within said tropes, but you never know.)
Nutshell: It's good stuff.
Books on the longlist that I've read:
El Deafo, by Cece Bell:
Set in the '70s, it works just as much as a period piece as it does a story about growing up, friendship, the difficulties and joys of her condition (you can't lipread when TV characters have their backs to the camera; her hearing aid allows her to hear uncensored conversations in the Teachers' Lounge), about feeling different and about embracing difference.
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood: A World War I Tale, by Nathan Hale: While I really do love this entire series, I found this installment the least satisfying. I suspect that's because, unlike the other books in the series, this one tried to tackle so, SO much. Rather than picking one smaller event (Donner Dinner Party) or a specific aspect of a larger story (Big Bad Ironclad) that allowed Hale to go really in-depth about a situation and all of the personalities involved, TTM&B covered the entirety of WWI. And so, except for a few really, REALLY affecting panels (yes, there were tears), my reading experience with this one was less fully-immersive and more information-overload.
This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki:
EVEN BETTER THAN THE HYPE HAD LED ME TO BELIEVE. A tween's perspective of a fracturing parental unit; the huge difference that a small age gap can have on a friendship during the 0-60 maturity years; wonderfully realistic dialogue; grief and friendship and crushes and secrets and OH GOD I SWOON.
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir, by Liz Prince: I read this one recently as well, and LOVED IT. It's about growing up and not fitting in—specifically, for Liz Prince, because she didn't want to wear dresses and she preferred Ghostbusters to My Little Pony—and just navigating childhood in general. It's SO, SO FUNNY, and it's also honest and self-deprecating and warm and generous and heartfelt and thoughtful. Loads here about gender and assumptions and culture and our own ingrained prejudices. I read a ton of it aloud to Josh, which kind of defeats the purpose of a comic, but whatever.