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Open Thread: YALSA’s Great GNs for Teens

The Young Adult Library Services Association released their Great Graphic Novels for Teens list yesterday, along with their top ten picks. Here are the lists:

Top Ten

Life Sucks, by Jessica Abel (First Second)
Sand Chronicles, vols. 1-3, by Hinako Ashihara (Viz)
Atomic Robo: Atomic Robo and the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne by Brian Clevinger (Red Five Comics)
Real, vols. 1 and 2, by Takehiko Inoue (Viz)
Uzumaki, by Junji Ito (Viz)
Pitch Black, by Youme Landowne (Cinco Puntos Press)
Japan Ai: A Tall Girl’s Adventures in Japan, by Aimee Major Steinberger (Go! Comi)
Skim, by Mariko Tamaki (Groundwood Books)
Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, by Gerard Way (Dark Horse)
Cairo, by G. Willow Wilson (Vertigo)

The Rest of the Best

Minister Jade, by Steve Bialik (Cellar Door Publishing)
The Good Neighbors: Book One: Kin, by Holly Black (Graphix)
The Death of Captain America, vols. 1 and 2, by Ed Brubaker (Marvel)
Dark Tower, vols. 1 and 2, by Peter David (Marvel)
Green Arrow: Year One, by Andy Diggle (DC)
Flight, vol. 5, edited by Kazu Kibuishi (Villard)
Metro Survive, vols. 1 and 2, by Yuki Fujisawa (DrMaster Publications)
Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale (Bloomsbury)
The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adapatation, by Jonathan Hennessey
The War at Ellesmere, by Faith Erin Hicks (Slave Labor Graphics)
Hikaru no Go, vols. 12 and 13, by Yumi Hotta (Viz)
Slam Dunk, vol. 1, by Takehiko Inoue (Viz)
Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, vols. 1 and 2, by Geoff Johns
Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery, by Mat Johnson (Vertigo)
Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography, by Sabrina Jones (Hill and Wang)
Kieli, vol. 1, by Yukako Kabei (Yen Press)
High School Debut, vols. 1 and 2, by Kazune Kawahara (Viz)
Astounding Wolf-Man, vol. 1, by Robert Kirkman (Image Comics)
Invincible, vol. 9, by Robert Kirkman (Image Comics)
Naruto, vols. 28-31, by Masashi Kishimoto (Viz)
Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, vols. 1 and 2, by Satoko Kiyuduki (Yen Press)
Two Flowers for the Dragon, vols. 1 and 2, by Nari Kusakawa (CMX)
Echo: Moon Lake, by Terry Moore (Abstract Studio)
Venus in Love, vols. 1-3, by Yuki Nakaji (CMX)
Planet Hulk, by Greg Pak (Marvel)
Fever, vol. 1, by Hee Jung Park (Tokyopop)
The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Daniel Pink (Riverhead Trade)
Love the Way You Love, vols. 1 and 2, by Jamie Rich (Oni Press)
Usagi Yojimbo: Tomoe’s Story, by Stan Sakai (Dark Horse)
The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, by Mark Schultz (Hill and Wang)
Key to the Kingdom, vol. 1, by Kyoko Shitou (CMX)
Welcome to Tranquility, vols. 1 and 2, by Gail Simone (Wildstorm)
Silver Surfer: Requiem, by J. Michael Straczynski (Marvel)
Fruits Basket, vols. 20 and 21, by Natsuki Takaya (Tokyopop)
Emiko Superstar, by Mariko Tamaki (Minx)
Monster Zoo, by Doug TenNapel (Image Comics)
Black Jack, vol. 1, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
Dororo, vols. 1-3, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
Honey and Clover, vols. 1-3, by Chica Umino (Viz)
Runaways: Dead End Kids, by Joss Whedon (Marvel)
Hikkatsu: Strike A Blow to Vivify!, vols. 1-3, by Yu Yagami (Go! Comi)
Nana, vols. 8-12, by Ai Yazawa (Viz)

Also worth noting is the fact that several graphic novels made it onto the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list:

Kaput and Zosky, by Louis Trondheim (Roaring Brook Press)
Life Sucks, by Jessica Abel (First Second)
Good Neighbors: Kin, by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (Scholastic)
Comickers Art 2: Create Amazing Manga Characters, by Comickers Magazine (HarperCollins)
Point Blank: The Graphic Novel, by Anthony Horowitz and Antony Johnston (Philomel)
Flight, vol. 4, edited by Kazu Kibuishi (Villard)
500 Manga Creatures, by Yishan Li (HarperCollins)
The Manga Cookbook, by The Manga University Culinary Institute and Chihiro Hattori (Japanime)
Spider-Man: The Icon, by Steve Saffel (Titan Books)
Black Metal, vol. 1, by Rick Spears and Chuck BB (Oni Press)
Japan Ai: A Tall Girl’s Adventures in Japan, by Aimee Major Steinberger (Go! Comi)

OK, consider this an open thread for readers and GC4K bloggers alike to discuss what you think of these lists: What should be there, what shouldn’t be there, etc. Why is there only one book from DC’s high-end teen imprint Minx on the list, when much-neglected CMX scored a number of hits? Is there a value to putting vol. 30 of a series on the list? Also, as the day goes on I will be tweaking the format and adding links and images; one YALSA omission I hope to remedy is the lack of illustrator credits.

(Disclaimer: GC4K blogger Robin Brenner chaired the Great Graphic Novels for Teens commitee, and Eva Volin was a member. Now that I have said, that, Robin and Eva, you are welcome to chime in!)

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.


  1. One quick comment — YALSA is actually working on adding the artist names to all the listings. I know they were working on it last night, and the powers that be said it should be up that way this morning (Chicago time, so a bit later for us here on the East Coast.)

    Also, I would actually love to hear what people think! Reactions to the list are one of the fun parts of participating, even when it’s criticism. And Eva and I can always step in and explain procedure or some of the internal list logic that may seem mystifying. (For example, this year as with the previous years, a number of titles didn’t make the list not because we didn’t think they were great, but because they were outside the age range of teen, targeting either a younger or older audience.)

  2. Sabrina F. says:

    I love this list! I look forward to it every year. :) My picks on the Top Ten are definitely Sand Chronicles and Umbrella Academy. I read those two voraciously, and I think that they’re shining examples of what manga and comics COULD be. And to answer some of the questions you posed, Brigid:

    Vol. 28-31 of Naruto? Well, I think it’s just a tribute to the power of that series. I don’t know how long that particular fad is going to last, but it’s been going strong for over a year now. And the crazy thing is that it actually deserves some of the hype! The plot gets better as you go on, and the characterization is perfect.

    I’m glad Rapunzel’s Revenge, Invincible, Slam Dunk, and other not-quite-so mainstream titles weren’t lost in the mix. They deserve the recognition.

    Also, Minx, in my mind, was just a bit of a failure. They didn’t have a continuous stream of good/decent quality books, and their advertising work wasn’t great. Spending all their time and effort trying to get the books shelved with mainstream fiction was not a great idea. They could have gotten that done eventually.

    That’s all I have for now! It looks like a great list!

  3. Katherine Dacey says:

    Hey Brigid… I don’t know what’s happening with the SLJ site, but every time I’ve attempted to post a response to this thread, I encounter an error message suggesting that my comment includes HTML, expletives, or common spam email language. I’ve re-written the comment four times, but no dice! Any ideas?

  4. Esther Keller says:

    I love the list. There are a lot of great titles. My favorite, I think, is the graphic adaptation of the Constitution. It really made a difficult topic accessible. I was surprised that Life Sucks made it as a top ten. It wasn’t my favorite, but I also know how everyone can start out hating a title and the discussion can make it a favorite!
    Great job GGNT committee.

  5. Katherine Dacey says:

    Take two… let’s hope the filter doesn’t reject my comments again!!!! I have to agree with Sabrina about Minx: most of the books were lackluster, the graphic novel equivalents of an Afterschool Special, complete with stereotypical characters and Very Important Social Messages. Small wonder teenage girls largely ignored the books.

    While I’m delighted to see CMX get some love from YALSA, I’d quibble with the inclusion of Venus in Love, one of my least-favorite shojo titles in the CMX catalog. My votes: Apothecarius Argentum, Gon, Kiichi and the Magic Books, Shirley, and Swan.

  6. Total agreement with Katherine, especially about Swan. Now THERE’S an underloved manga. It doesn’t receive a lot of recognition, and even gets shoved behind other classic 70s manga. It deserves a second glance for people who just brush it off because of its subject matter (ballet).

  7. One thing just to let folks know — one of the hardest things about creating these lists is finding a “way in” to the series that are ongoing. Naruto had an obvious starting point with volume 28. Fruits Basket was a lot tougher, as it wasn’t really easy to get into in midstream for new readers. So with something like Swan or the others, I would suggest two things for future years: One, if you think we should read it, nominate it! Try as we might, the committee members just cannot read all of the titles out there, but anyone (ANYONE!) can nominate a title. Two, if it’s in the middle of a series, try to find a sequence of volumes or story arc that holds together, so we can look at a chunk of the story.

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