I read a lot of graphic novels every year, and I review most of them on this blog. Check out the ones I liked best published in 2021.
Overall FavoriteCyclopedia Exotica
This book is a highly detailed and moving piece of world-building that imagines that cyclops are real and have to deal with many civil/human rights issues in being accepted into society. It's funny, moving, thoughtful, and provocative. Everything I want from a graphic novel!
Schweizer-Hale Award for Nonfiction
I learned so much about this uniquely American phenomenon from this anthology of stories. It's full of hucksters, pseudo-religion, true believers, tragedy, and existentialism. These stories lingered with me for a long time.
Favorite Adapted Webcomic
This gorgeously illustrated book retells the story of Persephone and Hades with a contemporary sensibility. Its characterizations and plotting are exceptional. It's one of my all-time favorite comics.
Favorite Adapted Digital Comic
A book by a couple of my favorite comics creators about a grown-up version of an Encyclopedia Brown/John Bellairs novel? That's pretty much a book made for me. It's a great mystery set in an appropriately creepy and idiosyncratic town with strong characters.
Favorite Book About TeachingAre Comic Books Real?
I also read many books about teaching/education, and this one made me feel what it was like to be a public school teacher. It's frustrating, hopeful, keenly observant, and drawn in disparate styles. If you want to know what teaching is like, read this book.
I was skeptical that a book could live up to the quirky and moving Sheets, but this one may actually pass it in terms of strong character work and realistic adolescent situations. It's a great melding of YA and ghost stories.
Favorite Reissued Book
Originally published as Clan Apis, this account of the life cycle of a bee is incredibly informative and surprisingly moving. Pretty much a perfect graphic novel, but now in color!
Favorite YA Book
This book is mostly about youth basketball and one girl's striving to be the best player she can be, which complicates her friendships. It is also a window into a contemporary family and her mother's political aspirations. I loved so much about this book and its characters, and I am eager for the sequel.
This graphic novel combines manga with European comics conventions, telling an incredible and harrowing survival tale about a couple of drug smugglers (a woman and her dog), a horrific plane crash, and the underpants that wants to kill them both. This book book bends genre conventions and is not for kids.