How This Year's Top 7 Graphic Novels Will Make You Feel

Hello book lovers!

I'm a judge for round two of the Cybils, in the Graphic Novel category. That means I'm reading, studying, and discussing the top Graphic Novels published between Oct 2014 and Oct 2015. These are GN's selected on the basis of literary merit (Is it a good book?) and kid-appeal (But will my kid actually read it?). They're painstakingly picked by top-notch kidlit bloggers.

My panel gets to take this list of seven and declare one *the winner*. Edit: The winner is announced!

They're all so good! I just had to mention them and and recommend them. They're coming straight from the Cybils shortlist and I want to tell you about how I reacted when I read them.

This is the list for teens -- books selected for ages 13 and up. I'll post about the Top 7 for ages 8-12 soon. If you have any questions about these books, ask and I will answer! Covers are going to link to Amazon, so you can read summaries and full reviews. If you shop through my links I make a small commission at no cost to you.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
This book made me feel acknowledged like, "This is real life!" and sad like, "Real life stinks sometimes."

Cybils blurb:
In this graphic-novel memoir, 14-year old Maggie finds herself at an all-girls summer camp transitioning from a celebrity crush on Backstreet Boys singer Kevin Richardson to a very real crush on Erin, one of the camp’s counselors. Honor Girl feels authentic as Maggie struggles with figuring out what her emotions mean. And imagine doing that while surrounded 24 hours a day teenage girls! The free-form artwork is a perfect way for author Maggie Thrash to convey her story as a 14-year might doodle her way through memories. The colors are slightly muted but not somber, which also reinforces the life-like quality of Honor Girl. Thrash also gives us several catchy uses of panels, sound effects, and perspective.
-Gary Anderson, What’s not wrong?

Lion of Rora by Cristos N. Gage
This book made me feel astonished like, "This is historical? How come I knew nothing about this amazing story?!" and uplifted like, "Good conquers Evil. Like a Boss!"

Cybils blurb:
Lion of Rora tells the true story of farmer-turned-military tactician, Joshua Janavel, who fought for the religious rights of his people and the Waldensian church. This novel is told using simple black and white illustrations to tell of a people fighting for their religious rights for the first time in European history against a ruler who denies them that freedom. The characters are sympathetic, the cause is just, and the story itself was new to all of our panelists, making this book a winner. 
-Sami Silva, Reading. Happily.

March: Book Two by John Lewis
This book made me feel sad like, "People can be so cruel." and thoughtful like, "In what ways am I subconsciously biased by my culture?"

Cybils blurb:
Just as powerfully as in March: Book One, Book Two continues the story of John Lewis’s involvement in America’s civil rights movement. March: Book Two, despite its title, stands alone as a distinct chapter in America’s long struggle with race, but it also emerges smoothly from its predecessor volume. The book focuses on the Freedom Riders and ends just after the August, 1963 March on Washington.. Although somewhat denser than Book One, Book Two alternates effectively between the political discussions among the movement’s leaders and the more dramatic scenes in streets and prisons. The black-and-white artwork evokes the familiar black-and-white newsreel footage of protestors being set upon with firehoses and police dogs, as well as the well-known images of George Wallace on the steps of the Alabama capitol and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. When those iconic images show up in comic form, they are simultaneously familiar and new. March: Book Two is an important contribution to our understanding of America and its history.
-Gary Anderson, What’s not wrong?

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
This book made me feel empowered like, "Modest religious girls can be superheroes!" and tickled like, "Oh man I love how they are playing with the genre."

Cybils blurb:
Kamala is 16, Pakastani-American, Muslim, and a Marvel comics fan. Then something weird happens, and she finds herself imbued with superpowers she uses for good when transformed into Ms. Marvel!
Volume 1 is engrossing as it introduces Kamala and her family, friends, and enemies. Ms. Marvel will do wonders in Jersey City … when she’s not grounded by her parents or in trouble at her mosque. This comic should have wide appeal, and its Muslim superhero is an obviously welcome positive portrayal of a demographic under-represented in literature for young readers.
-Gary Anderson, What’s not wrong?

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This book made me feel suspicious like, "Wait what exactly is going on here?" and giddy like, "I can't stop laughing. I want a t-shirt of this whole comic."

Cybils blurb
Heroes and sidekicks are always popular in the world of graphics, and Nimona follows in that tradition, but with some pretty big differences. Nimona, our sidekick wannabe, is trying to apprentice herself to the bad guy, who keeps trying to convince her to be less violent, and isn’t entirely sure he wants a sidekick in the first place. As he learns more about his shapeshifting assistant, he discovers that her role playing runs deeper than the physical, and her presence in his life enables him to rise from his own detested role and into his true nature. Clear and graceful art and endearing characters keep the reader riveted throughout the tale.
-Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

Oyster War by Ben Towle
This book made me feel entertained like, "Yay! Magic + Pirates!" and informed like, "Huh, I knew nothing about Oyster Trade in the 1800's"

Cybils blurb:
Pirates are rapidly depleting the oyster supply along the Eastern seaboard in the years after the Civil War. Civic leaders call in Commander Davidson Bulloch, a blustery submarine officer fond of spouting inspirational quotes although with at least one mangled word. Bulloch agrees to assemble a crew and go to war against Treacher Fink and his band of oyster pirates in Oyster War, a grand adventure that looks and feels like a throwback to the comic adventures of the 1930s.
Bulloch’s colorful sailors and Fink’s motley crew are wildly entertaining as they go to battle in a plot that is both complex and easily understood. Throw in a dash of historical accuracy and splashes of mysterious maritime legends, and you have a completely satisfying graphic novel.
-Gary Anderson, What’s not wrong?

Terrorist by Henrik Rehr
This book made me feel sad like, "Aw, man. There are people for whom terrorism seems like the best option" and educated like, "So that's how WWI started."
In a time when “terrorist” conjures up nothing positive, Henrik Rehr gives us the story of Gavrilo Princip, the self-described terrorist whose assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand touched off World War I. Rehr never asks readers to condone Princip’s actions or sympathize with him, nor does he require the reader to condemn them. We are simply shown how the mind of a terrorist works and allowed to draw our own conclusions. The black-and-white artwork is dramatic and although the characters are sometimes hard to distinguish, the overall visual effects are compelling. The political discussions weigh down the narrative in places, but Rehr creates a suspenseful plot as he alternates between the activities of Princip and the Archduke as they move toward the moment of the murder.
-Gary Anderson, What’s not wrong?

Which would you pick?

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