Comics/Graphic Novels

6 of the Best Nonfiction Comics for YA Readers

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Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

This list of nonfiction YA comics was originally published in our YA newsletter, What’s Up in YA? Sign up for it here to get YA news, reviews, deals, and more!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found a lot of comfort and solace in reading comics this year. Maybe because I’m drawn in by gorgeous art or a storyline that proves to move swiftly (or both!), I’ve been unable to get enough comic reading in.

Since this month I’m highlighting YA nonfiction, why not take a gander at some great nonfiction comics for YA readers?

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Robin was born in South Korea and was raised by a single mother. The two of them had a tight bond when she was young but it got a little more challenging when her mother announced that she was getting married to a man in Huntsville, Alabama, and they would become permanent immigrants to the USA. Not speaking English, Robin is completely challenged in her new school with learning and communicating with classmates, and more, she’s lost those connections to her friends back in Korea…and her connection with comics. But when Robin’s mom enrolls her in a comics creation class, she finds herself suddenly able to develop a new friendship and rekindle her love of comics, reading, and being wholly herself.

This graphic memoir is gorgeous and a fabulous read and, bonus, there’s some humor!

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight For Their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico

This graphic primer is essential reading for understanding the fight for suffrage and women’s rights more broadly. Where so many books focus heavily on the work done by white women, Kendall highlights women of color who made tremendous strides not only in the fight for the right to vote, but also for labor, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, abolition, and more. An outstanding look at the past, present, and future of the rights for people of all genders.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

Speaking of books about women through history, Bagieu’s collective biography offers a broad scope of the accomplishments, achievements, and work women have done throughout history. If you’re looking for work in translation by an author/artist who is wickedly talented, you’ll want to pick this up ASAP.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Gene never liked sports growing up, but at the school where he works, basketball is all the community can talk about. The varsity team this year is on a hot streak and close to entering the California State Championships. The book follows as Gene gets to know the team, the players, and their passion for the game, which forever changes his understanding of why sports become such a meaningful piece of a person’s life.

And, of course, Gene’s art is simply spectacular.

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

Brown has made a name for himself with outstanding graphic nonfiction that highlights a moment in history worth exploring more deeply. In this book, he focuses in on Hurricane Katrina and the devastation left in its wake in New Orleans. Not only does the book highlight the acts of hope and heroism that came from the storm, but Brown doesn’t shy away from the realities of racism and incompetence that made the storm’s impact harm some communities much more than others.

If this book captivates you, pick up one of Brown’s other YA nonfiction comics: The Great American Dust Bowl, The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, or Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918.

We'll Soon Be Home Again

We’ll Soon Be Home Again by Jessica Bab Bonde, Pete Bergting, Kathryn Renta, and Sunshine Barbito

Told from first person points of view, this graphic nonfiction book highlights the stories of six Holocaust survivors. These narratives come from survivor stories and don’t shy away from the tragic realities of life in concentration camps, mass murder, and the dehumanization all around them.

This is a heavy read but a necessary one.

What makes nonfiction comics so compelling is that they offer a way into so many lives. The art enhances the stories, making them immersive, urgent, and timely, no matter when or where they’re set.