Nicole and I are especially fond of graphic novels which you might have noticed by our Twitter feeds and uptick in reviews. Here we want to note a few of our favorites: standalone novels or the first in epic series. We’ll probably include another 10 later on, next month.
Literary Listings: Our 10 Fave Graphic Novel Standalones/First in Series
Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
A beautiful (narratively and aesthetically) graphic novel, I only wish it were longer—a series maybe. Skim follows Japanese-American teen, Kimberley, who is known as “Skim”—an ironic, lightly(?) cruel nickname alluding to her chubbiness. Skim is very sweet in her earnestness and rather serious. She feels calm, like a rock, but is clearly a very gentle, trusting soul. This is a double-edged sword and watching how this is taken advantage of, confused, rewarded, taken for granted and so on, is an engaging journey to a very relatable time. That nostalgic time is more ephemeral than an actual resemblance to my personal high school experience, but I connect to it personally still and I think this authenticity that comes across are what so many others connect with as well. Weightier topics are in the periphery in the same way that they can (at least in my experience) feel like vague but omnipresent murmurs at the periphery of one’s teen-vision in high school. The mood is set so well and the characters, scripting and artistic execution all come together just right to make an effective story.
Aya by Marguerite About & Mathieu Sapin
A fun soap opera from the Ivory Coast, Aya is a welcome breath of quotidian African life in a sea of all the prominent African stories we are usually inundated with of violence, poverty and starvation. While we all know horrible things happen in Africa (as they do everywhere in the world), I feel Africa has definitely been deprived of the lighter stories it has to tell. The less serious stories of playfulness and embarrassments and troublesome children and silly schemes that can be found in the ‘novellas’ of every culture.
I love the general flavour of this book: content, illustration, the difficult to describe feeling of ‘place’; and all the extras at the back of it made it even more special. There is a glossary, recipe, African baby wrapping technique (pictured on the cover), a mini cultural lesson about African attitudes towards postpartum mother and baby care and childrearing, and an interview with Abouet. There is a lot to love about this series and I am eager to continue it.
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
From the creator of Persepolis (Satrapi’s autobiography), comes Embroideries. It’s short and fun and easy to jump right into. It’s like gossip from a perspective with which I am not familiar (Iranian). Satrapi’s drawings are simple but full of character and expression, and they are as bold as the people she portrays. The topics are of men, sex and scandals, and I love how little explanation is directly offered, but how much is nevertheless understood. It’s all very natural…as culture is.
Goliath by Tom Gauld
OK! Until now, it seems like there’s a trend of me being really into “everyday life” sorts of stories, but those are definitely not the only graphic novels I’m into! haha
So here we have a retelling of the Biblical story of David and Goliath…from a very reluctant (and unfortunate) Goliath’s point of view. We all know what happens in the end…but I couldn’t help but hope, after getting to know Goliath over the course of the book, that it would somehow be avoided. I really enjoy these stories where I know what will happen and still get attached even while I’m aware that is the intention, and even though it makes me a little bit sad at the end every time…siigh.
Tom Gauld’s comics are always really clever (they feature weekly in the Guardian and I think the New York Times?) and I love how he is able to go further than clever observations here and use his deceptively simple style to incite other emotions…while also being funny the whole way through. I should probably also point out here that it’s a more subtle, dry humour than an uproariously, laugh out loud humour. One of my favourite kinds.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Emily Carroll is a brilliant comic artist. She loves to spin a creepy tale and has always done so beautifully on her website where she is able to really take advantage of the screen format. I was really thrilled when I saw she was coming out with a book and snatched it up immediately…and I was not disappointed. Although I was familiar with one or two stories from her website already, there were some new ones which I really loved. The illustrations are beautiful and the stories are positively delightful (in a sort of creepy way, not a daisy-filled-meadow sort of way).
And imagine my pleasure when I was able to get my book signed by Carroll at Thought Bubble two years ago! She drew a doodle in the front and I will treasure the book always.
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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
I’ve read a few graphic novels but this is definitely in the Top 10. What makes this great? Everything basically. The plot is hilarious and the characters are both relatable, scummy and funny as heck. It’s in general, a great stand alone novel so go get it. Yes.
Great quote: “Halt you villains! Unhand that science!”
In Real Life by Cry Doctorow & Jen Wang
So this was March’s Bitches Book Club pick and I really really enjoyed it. Not only did I find the art amazing (seriously, such a visual masterpiece) but I enjoyed the plot because it brought up 2 topics that I love: 1. Gaming and 2. Material Culture. I’d actually recommend it to others if they want to get a different view of gaming and capitalism. Inter-cultural dialogue just makes the the shiz-nit.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean
I’ve read this as a novel and I have to say that I actually prefer it as a graphic novel. I never read the second in the series as a novel and I’ve decided to hold off reading it till the graphic novel comes out later on this year. I loved the art, it really helped me visualize the amazing parts to this story.
Great quote: “I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was. Likewise, I never imagined that home might be something I would miss. Yet as we stood loading our boats in the breaking dawn, on a brand new precipice of Before and After, I thought of everything I was about to leave behind―my parents, my town, my once-best-and-only-friend―and I realized that leaving wouldn’t be like I had imagined, like casting of a weight. Their memory was something tangible and heavy, and I would carry it with me.”
Skim by Jillian Tamaki
Straight up, I don’t have a 5th. I have a few other graphic novels that I like but they’re in serial format so alas, I’d really like to get any recomenddations for stand alone graphic novels if you have any.
Skim is the first graphic novel I ever read and that is all thanks to Nicole. She wrote a better review so just scroll up.