Friendships are one of my favorite topics to read about in literature, and these stories resonate with us deeply. From Donna Tartt’s The Secret History to Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, I enjoy reading about how friendships can be bonds deeper than our relationships with family or even romantic partners. Over the past year, I’ve read several graphic novels that depict friendships. These novels bring friendship colorfully to life, depicting that secret, knowing look we give our friends or communicating the sometimes awkward emotions we have among our best buddies. Here are four graphic novels about friendship to buy, borrow, or bypass.
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
I loved the film adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World, starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson, and have seen it several times. But the graphic novel upon which it is based gives an even more immediate look at the friendship between Enid and Becky with all their faults. Enid is, frankly, a brat. At heart, Enid is deeply insecure and overcompensates for it by causing trouble and unleashing out-of-line insults to everyone she meets, deconstructing whatever attempts they make to fit in and have a personality. Towards the end of high school, Enid’s best friend Becky is beginning to pull away and wants to have a life of her own, one that includes a job and a boyfriend. She doesn’t feel that Enid fits into her future. Ghost World is at times extremely hilarious. I could almost hear the disaffected, jejune voice of my teenage self saying some of the things Enid and Becky say, and I recognized some of the anxieties I shared with them. Clowes’ graphic novel, a collection of the Ghost World comic strips from 1993-1997, is also a classic in the field. This quick read is one you’ll return to time and time again. A definite Buy.
Lumberjanes by Shannon Waters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson
The comic Lumberjanes is breathtaking to behold. The pages display an energizing style of vividly drawn characters and scenery that leaps off the page and hits you with a colorful and immersive look at the Lumberjanes’ world. The Lumberjanes are a group of friends who go to a Girl Scout-like summer camp. The friends have many different personalities, some with a kind of frenzied and hyperactive energy, others with a more subdued and cerebral approach, but together they fight threats both supernatural and human. Lumberjanes has been collected in three volumes that contain the comics. The story is notable for its girl power themes and also a madcap sense of adventure. I’ve read the first two volumes, and I’d definitely pass them along to my female niece since the comics are empowering and just plain fun. This is a Borrow book because it strikes me as a graphic novel that should be passed along to friends rather than own permanently.
Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe
I really enjoyed Rat Queens. For the first twenty pages, I had no idea how to approach it. The comic is unlike anything I’ve read or seen before. It features a group of futuristic assassins-for-hire who take down evil monsters and fight anyone who threatens their lives and friendship. I think of Rat Queens, which has been collected to date in three volumes and one deluxe edition, as what I’d give my niece once she’s an adult—especially if she enjoyed Lumberjanes. There are definite similarities in the stories, with women protecting other women and taking an almost fearless approach to vanquishing enemies. This is another Borrow for me because, like Lumberjanes, it’s a story you’ll want to pass along rather than keep.
This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
This graphic novel was a 2015 Printz Honor Book and a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, and it’s not hard to see why. Rose and her family go to Awago Beach every year, and Rose always gets to hang out with her friend Windy. But this summer Rose’s parents are fighting a lot. There’s a ton of tension in the house. Rose is thankful she has Windy to distract her and help her make life bearable for the summer. I love this graphic novel by the sister team Jillian and Mariko Tamaki because it reminded me of the feel of summer when you’re a kid and how big those months seem. The summer stands out in your mind as almost a year in itself, a way to pass the time when you’re still a young one. Also, the depiction of Rose and Windy’s friendship is special. It’s easy to see yourself in these summer friendships and especially how friendships can help sustain you in times when you need it most. This book is a Buy because it’s one you’ll want to have on yourself to read over and over again. Also, it’s a little over 300 pages, and you might want to take your time when reading it instead of having to borrow it and return it right away.