I am so grateful that graphic novels exist. Especially in 2020, when my attention span was barely capable of keeping me interested in some of my most anticipated reads, I had graphic novels to keep me engaged and accountable to my reading challenge. Our list of the Best Graphic Novels of 2020 is by no means exhaustive but just some of the best graphic novels that were gorgeously put together, inspiring, and the perfect read at a much-needed time.
Noisemakers by Kazoo Magazine
Noisemakers is by far one of the best non-fiction graphic novels I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The combination of empowering stories of the titular noisemakers — the women who inspired and created change throughout history — and various fantastic artwork makes for a truly fantastic read.
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
A delightful, quirky read about a girl, her dog, and an unexpected friendship, Snapdragon was stunning and not just for the artwork but for the found family at the heart of it, and the layered world-building and narrative. I loved Snap, and I’m desperate for more of her story.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff
Jason Reynold’s award-winning novel-in-verse, Long Way Down, is a powerful punch in the gut. The graphic novel adaptation is no different. At its heart, this is a story of choices, ghosts, brothers and gun violence. The gorgeous artwork adds so much to the story, so that every breath held in anticipation and awe at every panel. It is a must read for every reader, graphic novel fan or not.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
A generational story of loss and sacrifice, I loved this sweet, sweeping book. The Magic Fish is told through fairy tales and a mother’s narrative as she watches her son grow up. I loved the artistic and narrative choices throughout—the fairy tales told through each character’s viewpoint, with the backdrop of immigration, war and loss, is heartbreaking. Keep the tissues ready.
Twins by Varian Johnson, Illustrated by Shannon Wright
Twins reminded me of watching some of my favorite Disney Channel Original movies — fun-filled, camaraderie-driven stories with heart and family. I wished I had this book when I was in middle-school, a time when it felt like everyone around me was changing, and I was left behind. This graphic novel is a real mood booster and perfect for all ages.
You Brought Me The Ocean by Alex Sanchez, Illustrated by Julie Maroh
One of my favorite things about all of the recent DC Comics is that they’re perfect for graphic novel readers of any level. Whether you’re new to superhero comics and need an introduction or you’re a beloved fan, the new line is a must read. You Brought Me The Ocean is one of my favorites, seamlessly telling the story of a high schooler questioning his identity — in more ways than one — with major superhero plots happening in the background. The artwork is incredible, and the characters are just as good.
Daphne Byrne by Laura Marks, Illustrated by Kelley Jones
Like many TV fans, I inhaled The Haunting of Hill House last year and The Haunting of Bly Manor. There was something about the gothic horror paired with the deep, well-written character study that I craved when it finished, and I’m so glad I found Daphne Byrne. Deliciously creepy, the first volume is chock full of great horror panels and a feminist modern tone that I really appreciated in the spooky Victorian setting.
Seance Tea Party by Reimena Yee
I hugged this graphic novel after I finished. It was perfect. Sweet and nostalgic, I really loved the pacing in this one. I deeply felt what Lora was experiencing and connected with her character. Pre-teens and older readers will get a lot out of this adorable ghost graphic novel — definitely one of the best coming of age books I’ve read!
Kodi by Jared Cullum
I’m a sucker for a kid and animal friendship story. I gobbled this one up, wrapped up by the lovely color palette and illustrations. I could easily see this one adapted into a cartoon, and I’m so excited to see more of Cullum’s work.
Space Battle Lunchtime Vol. 3 by Natalie Riess
Last year I tore through the first two volumes of Space Battle Lunchtime, totally engrossed by the unique premise. Oni Press publishes some of the best comics and graphic novels out there and this latest volume in one of my favorite series doesn’t disappoint. It’s just as fun and sweet as the past two and definitely deserves a spot on TBR read lists if you haven’t binge read them already!
Flamer by Mike Curato
Oof, this book was a tough but necessary read. Complex but real, my heart hurt for Aiden as he dealt with so much at camp and life at home. Mike Curato is one of my absolutely favorite artists — his Little Elliot books are whimsical and perfect—and his graphic novel debut is no exception. This is a must read.
Check, Please! Book 2 Sticks and Stones by Ngozi Ukazu
This list wouldn’t be complete without Check, Please! This graphic novel feels like coming home. It’s sweet, funny, and filled with team camaraderie and a budding romance. Fans of the webcomic will delight in the final volume, and new readers will become Bitty fans for life.
I read a lot of picture books this year alongside graphic novels. The uplifting artwork and messages filled me with so much joy and hope and I am in awe of the talent on display in these books. Among some of my favorites were: Gustavo, The Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago, Every Color of Light: A Book About the Sky by Hiroshi Osada, Ryōji Arai and David Boyd, Swasby and the Sea by Beth Ferry and Jauna Martinez-Neal, If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall, I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James. I also loved the new children’s book series, A Kids Book About, (my favorite is A Kids Book About Change and A Kids Book About Creativity, a necessary collection that perfectly explains big topics in digestible bits. The collection is a learning tool but also an essential addition to libraries and bookshelves everywhere.