Last year during NaBloPoMo, I posted about feeling a bit lost when it came to the graphic novel genre. I’m intrigued by graphic novels. I want to like them. But I hadn’t really found a graphic novel that felt like it fit me.
So I kept trying.
I finally found several graphic novels that impressed me, so much so, in fact, that I now own a box set! And I would like to own a copy of the other great book, too.
Powerful Graphic Novels to Add to your TBR:
March, three book series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
John Lewis – yes, the congressman from Georgia – shares his story of how he became a key figure in the civil rights movement. Book One covers John Lewis’s early life and how he became involved in the movement, including his meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. The novel shows how the student movement began as they carried out nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins. While Lewis reflects back on how the movement began and changes he helped bring about, he’s also preparing for the inauguration of history-making President Barack Obama. Book Two is a bit darker, following Lewis as he and the Freedom Riders board a bus headed to the deep south. The riders are faced with violence, imprisonment, and arson. Book Three covers the Birmingham Church Bombing and how activists attempting a nonviolent march across a bridge in Selma were beaten by state state troopers.
- March is a powerful series that should be read by everyone. The Civil Rights Movement often gets boiled down to the basics in school, but I learned so much about other important leaders and organizations during the 1960s, what went into the planning of the March on Washington, and how dangerous it was for people to protest – even peacefully – and especially in the south. John Lewis is incredible and, as he points out near the end of the book, is the only one left of the “Big Six.” At only 23 years old, Lewis participated in sit-ins and peaceful protests, was a freedom rider, witnessed police brutality, endured jail time, met with President Kennedy to discuss the Civil Rights Bill, and spoke at the March on Washington before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. We could all use a refresher on our recent past, and this book provides that information in a very accessible way. The comic book format makes it more dynamic and emotional than a history book. Great storytelling and great illustrations. I read March: Book One on my kindle fire and really liked how I could double-tap on a picture and the frame would enlarge on the screen. Then, by swiping, it would switch to the next frame in a really cool way. By double-tapping again, it would zoom out so I could see what the entire page looked like. I sometimes find reading graphic novels a bit confusing, so this feature was really great. The next book, I checked out from our library, and by the time I got to the third book, my husband bought me the three-book series because I talked about how well-done this series was. I’m glad that I own these. They are worth rereading. Five stars and beyond!
Speak: The Graphic Novel, by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll
Melinda is just starting her freshman year of high school and she’s already an outcast. That’s because she called the cops on the big end-of-summer party – though no one is interested in her reasons for doing this. Struggling through a rough school year without her friends, parents who don’t pay attention, and teachers who are clueless, Melinda turns inward and mostly silent. Thanks to a passionate art teacher, time, and a need to protect others, Melinda finally reveals that she was raped by an upperclassman from her school.
- If you see this book in the library or at a bookstore, pick it up because you need to read it. Laurie Halse Anderson’s original novel Speak is the quintessential text on sexual assault for teens and young adults. It is a must-read because it’s so honest and real and poignant. Melinda’s voice – though she doesn’t say much – has so much to tell the reader. And in this version, what she doesn’t say is filled in by the expressive illustrations. This graphic novel, published almost 20 years after the original book, is a refreshing and relevant update, and just as important now as it was then. It’s not just important for teenage girls either – it is important for teen boys, college-age students, teachers, and parents. And even if you haven’t experienced sexual assault or harassment yourself, there is something for everyone to gain, whether it’s simply awareness or empathy. I don’t think you can walk away from this book without feeling something. Emily Carroll’s illustrations match perfectly with the text – it’s almost like they were always meant to be this way. I loved how the images stirred up feelings of sympathy, frustration, anger, and hope even though there’s not as much text to read as a full novel. Every few pages I found myself going “mmmm” – which meant, “Wow, Laurie and Emily, you just made an amazing point.” Even though I’ve read the original book multiple times and watched the movie, this still left an impression on me. Until women’s voices and victim’s voices are believed, until there’s no longer a need for #metoo and #timesup movements, until there is a belief that women’s rights are human rights, Speak will continue to be a necessary text. So read it. You won’t regret it.
Have you read any graphic novels this year? Tell me about them!