It’s been a big year for YA comics and graphic novels, with the launch of even more YA graphic novel imprints from major publishers and some big buzz for new artists and writers. While my own reading of graphic novels has slowed due to the fact that again, my library access was spotty this year (thanks, COVID), I am back at it and devouring all the graphic novels I missed in 2020, and catching up on some favorites that released in 2021. So far, my favorites from this year include Cheer Up: Love and Pom-Poms by Crystal Frasier and Val Wise, and Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag (the creator of The Witch Boy!). I also loved, loved Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle — but more on that below!
As we are looking ahead to the end of the year, here’s a round up of new YA comics and graphic novels hitting shelves from October through December of 2021 that you don’t want to miss out on. We have a nice mix of original standalone, popular YA book adaptations, and a memoir that, fun fact, had to be signed off on by the CIA before it could be published! Plus, here’s a fun bonus — graphic novels, memoirs, and comics make for quick reads if you need to sneak a few more books on your TBR to make your end of the year reading goal!
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle
Becca is the new girl at Piedmont, and she’s surprised to find on her first day that she’s been noticed by the school’s most popular girls, the Squad. They’re beautiful, charming, a maybe a little dangerous…but Becca doesn’t realize just how dangerous until they reveal that they’re werewolves, and they must hunt and kill one person each month. The Squad makes a point of only hunting bad boys who don’t understand the concept of consent, and Becca is all too happy to become one of them…until they take their mission of vigilante justice one step too far, and have to pay the price. This is an excellent, visually striking graphic novel about rape culture and the bonds of friendship, with a great queer subplot! Plus, its already been optioned for film!
Passport by Sophia Glock
In this fascinating book, Sophia Glock recounts her childhood and teen years, growing up an American girl abroad in many different countries, struggling to find her place. When she discovers that her parents work for the CIA and there is a reason why she’s not allowed to know too much about their work, or reveal much about her life to friends, it forces her to confront herself and her own sense of identity in an unnamed Central American city. While this book is more of a coming of age story than a spy story, it’s a fascinating peek at a very unconventional upbringing.
Himawari House by Harmony Becker
Set in Tokyo, this graphic novel follows three teens, Nao, Hyejung, and Tina, who have all come to Japan as foreign exchange students and find themselves living in Himawari House. They’re attending the same immersion school, where they find themselves thrown into a rigorous academic program while navigating being alone in a foreign country. Nao is an adoptee hoping to reconnect with her culture while Hyejung and Tina are looking for freedom, but together the three find friendship and community in one another.
Lifetime Passes by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre
Jackie Chavez loves Kingdom Adventure, her local amusement park. It’s her favorite place in the entire world, and the only place she’s felt safe in ever since her mom got deported. But when Jackie’s aunt tells her they can’t afford a season pass for next season, she and her friends come up with a rather dark plan: They’ll form a fake volunteer program and bring senior citizens with them to the park. It’s a closely guarded park secret that if someone dies at Kingdom Adventure, the members of their group get free lifetime passes. It may be macabre, but it’s all Jackie has. Although, she’s about to find that the senior citizens she brings to the park have a thing or two to teach her about life.
Graceling: The Graphic Novel by Kristin Cashore and Gareth Hinds
In this adaptation of the bestselling YA fantasy novel, Katsa is a Graceling with a rare skill for killing others, and as the niece of the king, she is forced to do his bidding and kill his enemies. She hates this life, but she’s trapped in the circumstance until she can find a way to escape. Then she meets Po, a prince from a neighboring kingdom with combat skills that nearly match her own, and his entrance into her life soon has Katsa diving into a mystery that will reveal the shocking truth about her Grace.
Prankster: Five Nights at Freddy’s by Scott Cawthon, Elley Cooper, and Andrea Waggener
The latest graphic collection in the Five Nights at Freddy’s series is a haunting selection of three graphic novellas about teens Jeremiah, Joel, and Amy. Jeremiah is done being the butt of his coworkers’ jokes, so decides to stand up for himself. Joel can’t wait to leave town, but for now he’s stuck at his family’s business. And Aimee finally gets the courage to break it off with a toxic friend. But each of these characters face some unexpected consequences for their moments of action.
Fly by Night by Tara O’Connor
Dee’s twin is missing, and no one seems to be doing enough to save her. So Dee finds herself patrolling the nearby woods alone, hoping desperately she’ll find some answers. What she finds instead is monsters, and a horrible plot to destroy the pinelands that she’s spent so much time in. Now, she’s got a double mission of searching for her sister and saving the woods, and both will force her to realize that there are monsters everywhere, but it’s the ones you least expect that are the most dangerous.
Looking for more great graphic novels for teens? We’ve got you covered.