What is a Graphic Novel?

A graphic novel is a book that uses a comic strip format to tell a story.

So, you may ask, how is that any different from a comic book? Well, while they both include illustrations and utilize the same strip format their similarities end there for the most part.pow.png

Graphic novels are more lengthy, in depth, and usually tie the story up in, if not one, then two or three novels. Comics on the other hand are shorter and the story progresses over multiple issues.

Now that we’ve distinguished what a graphic novel is, let’s move onto a bit of background.

While it is widely disputed, a majority of comic historians agree that the first graphic novel to be published was Will Eisner’s 1978 novel, “A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories.”

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Since then, graphic novels have evolved from short stories to full blown chaptered narratives. Their popularity has also recently been on the rise among young adults with Brian Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim,” series.

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“Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” By Alison Bechdel Review

Bechdel’s best selling novel “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” is a raw memoir of her turbulent upbringing.

fun home coverThe novel focuses on her life growing up in Pennsylvania with her father with whom she had a less than stellar relationship with.

Overall, it’s a brutally honest, no holds barred story that touches on multiple controversial themes such as sexual orientation, suicide, the effects of living with a toxic family, among many others. These themes are what got the book the No. 7 spot on the list of top 10 most challenged books of 2015.

fun home realThe graphics in this story are very simple and detailed and compliment the narration very appropriately. The color scheme is black and white with light blue shading which represents the somber tone of much of the book. Additionally, some illustrations were inspired by her own family photos.

I read “Fun Home,” last year and I can still recall how exposed it made me feel. Though I have very little in common with Bechdel her vulnerability throughout the novel unwillingly transfers to the reader.

fun home graphic dadI would highly recommend this novel to anyone over the age of 16 with an interest in LGBT books.

My Rating: 4/5

 

Graphic Novel Starter Kit

Discovering a new genre of books can be overwhelming, so if you’re new to graphic novels here are a few recommendations for starting out:

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1. “Blankets” by Craig Thompson

blanketsThis is an autobiographical novel that tells the tale of the relationship between two brothers growing up in snowy and isolated Wisconsin. Along with the relationship between siblings it also tells the story of a developing romance.

From a teenager’s perspective, this book really peaked my interesting in its attempts to dissect how both familial and romantic relationships develop as a young adult.

Overall, “Blankets,” is a great starter graphic novel because it is the whole package: interesting characters, incredible illustrations and color scheme, and a compelling storyline.

2. “Lost At Sea” by Brian Lee O’Malley

I already reviewed this book in my previous article but I had to include it in this list as well.

This was the first graphic novel I read as a teenager and it is what made me interested in reading more. lost_at_sea

It’s about a teenage girl graduating high school that goes on a journey of self discovery. More specifically, she thinks a cat stole her soul so she embarks on a cross country road trip with some classmates. So, it’s a unique take on navigating that transitional period in a young adult’s life.

Not only did this short, sweet, and to the point book strike a nerve in 17 year old me, but “Lost At Sea,” pulled me in with it’s cartoony illustrations and entertaining dialogue.

3. “Essex County” by Jeff Lemire

This novel is actually not one book but it is split up into a trilogy. essex county.jpg

It’s difficult to summarize this story because it is so in depth, but in short the trilogy focuses on a farming town in Canada and follows the townspeople throughout the years. The novel covers a wide range of themes including family, sadness, aging, and countless more.

The pictures are amazingly emotional as is the dialogue.

So, while this story is relatively long and in depth, I think everyone needs to read “Essex County,” no matter how new you are to graphic novels.

“Lost At Sea” By Brian Lee O’Malley Review

While O’Malley is best known for his work on the best selling graphic novel series “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Lost At Sea,” was his debut graphic novel.
This short but in depth story follows 18 year old Raleigh on her journey to find herself. More specifically, to find her soul, which she believes has been taken by a cat. So, she embarks on a cross country road trip with three of her classmates.lost_at_sea

Since the premise of the story revolves around Raleigh searching for the cat that stole her soul, it is an accurate assumption that the book is certainly odd. But don’t let the obscure plot discourage you from reading because it is also insightful, funny, and relatable.

Speaking from personal experience, O’Malley does a very good job of appealing to his target audience, which are young adults transitioning into the next stage of their lives. I read this book just before I graduated high school and the way O’Malley explains how it feels to be entering into that unfamiliar chapter of your life really struck a nerve in me. Raleigh is a very real character in the sense that she doesn’t hold back explaining how scared she is for the future and the fact that she doelost at sea cat.pngsn’t quite know who she is.

The cats also offer an interesting perspective on finding one’s self. Raleigh is a lost teenager trying to find out who she is as a person. Being 18 can be quite nerve wracking and she channels that fear into something less scary; cats. Her claiming a cat stole her soul is her way of making her journey of self discovery less terrifying.

As far as the illustrations go, they are fairly simple but still very appealing. So is the dialogue, it’s simple but witty and gets the point across clearly.

My only complaint is that the ending was abrupt. But other than that this short and sweet graphic novel is the perfect fit for any young adult transitioning into another chapter of their life.

My Rating: 3.8/5