Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Favorite Graphic Novels of 2019

Every year, I read a lot of graphic novels. These are the ones published in the past year that have stuck with me the most. In no particular order, and in no set categories, here are my favorites:

Favorite Overall Graphic Novel

The Hard Tomorrow is a tale set in the not-so-far-future where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is the US president, social media is used for surveillance, and civil rights are under siege. The story of relationships nested within this context is complex, moving, and very relatable for me. The ending of this book literally gave me goosebumps.

Favorite Book by a Hernandez Brother

For once, Jaime out-published Gilbert in terms of books in a calendar year. A 30-year punk rock reunion concert is the setting for Is This How You See Me?, and it pulls off the great trick of flitting from the present to the past to show a broad picture of growing up or changing in terms of people and music scenes. Although it did not give me goosebumps, the final page of this book put a perfect exclamation mark on the whole enterprise.

Favorite Adaptation

Using all sorts of styles and media variations, Anne Frank's Diary is a moving translation that does justice to the book and makes it even more relatable to a modern context. I read a lot of graphic novel adaptations, but this one knocked my socks off.

Favorite Scifi/Horror

Nathan Hale regularly appears in my end-of-year posts for his nonfiction Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series, but this book is a work of fiction. Apocalypse Taco is about some school drama students who get caught up in nightmare scenario involving inter-dimensional beings trying to replicate and replace our world, and it is full of great twists and body horror. Plus, one of the eventual heroes is a graduate student. Hooray for graduate students! (This book would have also won my Best Title category, for the record.)

Favorite Book for Younger Readers

My rating here is based on two criteria: 1. number of times my 4-year-old requested to read it, and 2. just how charming and inventive the whole thing was. Red Panda & Moon Bear is about two superheroic kids who protect their neighborhood from various menaces, from bad dogs to ghosts to ice cream monsters. I loved seeing how they solved their problems with ingenuity and empathy. We loved this book in my house!

Favorite Nonfiction Book

Box Brown is a regular in my end-of-year lists as well, but this book surprised me with just how much it taught me. Cannabis is a history of the contentious plant, showing the science behind how it works, its international roots, and how a long-term process of racism and misinformation has colored how we view it today. It is an excellent cultural history.

Favorite Scifi

Last Pick: Born to Run is two things: an gripping scifi story about an alien invasion of Earth and what people who are underestimated can accomplish. This look at what are typically considered disabilities or disablement made for great drama to accompany strong characterization and great, gruesome monster designs.

Favorite Young Adult Book

The insights into an African-American young man and the experiences he has at a private school make New Kid a unique and important book. Not only does it explore the social dimensions of adolescence, it also raises timely questions about social justice and equity in a way that involves multiple shareholders. Additionally, I very much enjoyed getting to know Jordan Banks, the main character, as he learns the lay of land while trying to develop his artistic skills. It features a great message but with a sense of both humor and humanity.

Favorite Memoir

Lucy Knisley is another regular in my end-of-year lists, and in Kid Gloves she offers multiple features in one book. It is a memoir about her own process of getting pregnant, pregnancy, and giving birth. It also contains a bunch of historical sections about how those three life processes have been viewed and evolved over time and across cultures. It also contains a good deal of graphic medicine about specific conditions and treatments. All of these features combine to give the reader much to learn about, chew over, and also be entertained and moved by. This is an excellent book for anyone who is a parent or who would like to be one.

OK, that's my list. Happy New Year!

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