Stand-Out Graphic Novels of 2019

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Jordan Banks wants to attend art school, not the fancy prep school his mom is in love with. And he’s a little worried about the lack of diversity. It’s difficult to be the new kid in general, but Jordan also has to deal with stuff like the teacher never getting his name right and always looking at him when financial aid is discussed. He’s not sure he’ll ever fit in. Or that he can keep his old friends if he does. A compelling graphic novel that brings middle school to life with warm understanding, and a touch of humor.

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Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

It’s the start of sixth grade and Shannon is looking forward to being one of the biggest kids in the school.  And, now that she’s told mean Jenny that she can’t be in the group anymore, Shannon thinks her friendship troubles are over.  But having friends and keeping friends are two different things.  What happens when your friends just don’t seem like a good fit anymore?  Sequel to Real Friends.  A sensitive depiction of navigating relationships in middle school, brought to life with Pham’s cute and colorful illustrations.

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Just Jaime by Terri Libenson

Just Jaime

Jaime never imagined that she would spend the last day of seventh grade watching her friendships fall apart. Her BFF since forever, Maya, no longer seems to like her, now that their new friend Celia is pulling the strings. And, because Jaime is known as a mean Gossip Girl herself, she’s not sure she can even make new friends. This is about to be the worst summer ever.  A graphic novel that stands out by making one of the “mean girls” the protagonist.  Jaime learns that others do not see her the way she sees herself, and must learn how to change.  A brilliant twist on the middle-school friendship story.

smaller star dividerThe Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Tea Dragon Festival cover

When Rinn discovers Aedhan, a dragon who fell asleep instead of guarding her village as was his job, she has to find a way to help him feel like a part of the community, despite the time he lost.  A reflective, dreamy-paced book that highlights the beauty of kindness, community, and tradition.  The work is reminiscent of a Hayao Miyazaki film.

smaller star dividerThe Midwinter Witch by Molly Ostertag

Ariel is finally starting to think she has found a family, but when Aster invites her to his family reunion–which includes a contest to determine the best witch–Ariel must face the truth of her birth family and decide, once and for all, whether she will embrace the dark, or the light.  A splendid conclusion to a trilogy focused around finding one’s identity.

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Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

The March sisters are facing a Christmas without presents as their mom works late shifts as a nurse and their father serves overseas.  But they soon realize that others have it worse than they do, and that there is still plenty in life to appreciate.  Together, they will face whatever life throws at them and come out stronger.  A graphic novel retelling of Little Women set in modern-day New York City that promotes diversity, inclusion, and feminism.  A beautiful depiction of family seamlessly updated for a contemporary audience.

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Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Raina is having tummy trouble, but she doesn’t know why. Meanwhile, school is stressing her out, she’s having trouble with mean girls, and she’s worried all the time that she’s going to get sick. Does she have the guts to confront her fears?  A sensitive and honest depiction, based on Raina’s own life, about a girl struggling to understand her body.  The bold, bright illustrations that Telgemeier uses have set a trend in middle-grade graphic novels.

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Stargazing by Jen Wang

Moon and Christine are the best of friends, sharing everything.  Moon even confides to Christine that she has visions that say she does not belong on earth.  But when tragedy strikes, Christine will learn just how true of a friend she is.

8 thoughts on “Stand-Out Graphic Novels of 2019

  1. happytonic says:

    Great selection, Krysta! I’m new to the genre- the only one I’ve read from these was The Tea Dragon Festival and it was just adorable. Thank you for the recommendations!❤🤗


  2. Jennifer says:

    Love this list! I found some titles I had missed and will look into, thank you! I’m excited about Just Jaime.


    • Krysta says:

      I really enjoyed Just Jaime! And I’ve recently finished Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis, which would definitely have made this list, had I read it in time! It’s sort of an alternate history inspired by Elizabeth I’s imprisonment by her sister Mary.


  3. ofmariaantonia says:

    I really liked New Kid. The other one that looks good is Just Jaime. And Best Friends is on my list to read. But I should probably read the first one first, right? (Real Friends)


    • Krysta says:

      It’s not really necessary to read Real Friends first. I think there is one vague allusion to the first book, but otherwise Best Friends works well as a standalone.


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