The Compulsive Reader: My First Graphic Novels

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My First Graphic Novels

In the spirit of school and education and learning (and also peer pressure), I did something I've never done before. I went to the library and checked out two graphic novels. And then I read them.

I know, I know. Crazy.

I've been very stubborn when it comes to graphic novels. I like the way they look. I know a lot of comic book characters and story arcs really well and I like the stories. Just, when I sat down to actually read one, I found myself getting flustered. I became genuinely anxious over the conundrum of where to look first. What do I look at? Pictures first, then words? Words, then take in the pictures? What if I accidentally skip a panel? What if I miss something in the corner of a panel because I am too busy looking at other things?

These were legitimate concerns that kept me from ever reading and enjoying any comic book or graphic novel. And then when I was at residency this past January, I thought, "Well, this is ridiculous. I am going to do this." And I went to Jim Hill's lecture on graphic novels, which was smart and fascinating and enlightening to a graphic novel newbie like me. (And Jim is in general a very smart guy and hilarious writer, and you should remember his name because you'll want to read his books.) And that solidified my determination. Graphic novels. I'm going to read them.

First up was Anya's Ghosts by Vera Brosgol:

This is a book that we have in stock in the store, and I really liked the cover. It's clever and it reminded me of the original Sisters Red cover by Jackson Pearce. I've paged through it before, but when I saw it on the shelves at my library, I snatched it up.

While the bare bones of the story--girl falls down a well, meets a ghost she can't shake, ghost helps her out with things like school and boys, everything is going great...or is it?--weren't completely shocking or innovative, I liked Anya's character a lot, and I loved how Brosgol framed the ghost story within Anya's trouble to fit in and not be seen as the immigrant. This was a lot of fun and I was really into it by the end.

So, I read Anya's Ghost, I liked it, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. The next book I picked up was the only middle grade graphic novel I knew of--Smile by Raina Telgemeier. I saw Raina at the Scholastic part in New York in 2012, and just my luck that my library had a copy of Smile on the shelves.

Smile is an autobiographical account of Raina's dental drama when she knocks out her two front teeth in middle school. It's funny and colorful and I really enjoyed how Raina talks about the struggle she had with being a good sport about her dental issues and the jokes that would ensue, and knowing the difference between good-natured teasing and subtle bullying. It's a fine line sometimes, and she handled the subject with grace.

When I proudly told my advisor that I had read two graphic novels (yes, I was very, very proud of myself), I was told that I had better read a bunch more. And MANGA. Manga scares me a little bit, because if I was worried about missing something and how to read graphic novels, then manga goes and makes it even worse by reversing EVERYTHING. However, I am excited to rise to the occasion. My wonderful friend Amy Rose graciously let me borrow Blankets by Craig Thompson and Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, which I'm excited to read. My friend Cori told me to read the graphic novel about the poor Russian stray that goes to space, but I know the ending of that one and I declined. (She'll likely wear me down eventually.)

But I welcome any graphic novel suggestions and any manga suggestions and tips, especially since I am a beginner! What do you like?

(Something that totally just occurred to me right now--now that I know I like graphic novels, I can get seriously excited about the Rainbow Rowell graphic novels!!)


Unknown said...

I've read Anya's Ghost too, there's a lot going on in that story in addition to the ghost aspect. It was really good. I haven't read Smile yet but I did read Drama. I loved it!

Kristen said...

If you like dark fairy tales, I would highly suggest Gloomcookie by Serena Valentino and Fables by Bill Willingham, some of my faves. :) I've read all of those on your list and love them as well!

LinWash said...

Good choices! If you haven't read Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese graphic novel, run to the library and grab it!

The Compulsive Reader said...

Kristen, you're a girl after my own heart. Thanks so much for the fairy tale recommendations. I'm all over those!

Linda, thanks for American Born Chinese! That one I have heard of and I am definitely going to grab it!

Kym, I definitely want to grab Drama. That was the book Raina was promoting when I met her. She and a few other Scholastic authors did a dramatic reading of it and it was quite hilarious! I might have to order them for the bookstore!

Barker and Jones Staff said...

The manga I enjoyed most was CardCaptor Sakura. Nice gentle magical girl story. But that was a few years ago, so I'm not sure if it's still in print.

Nurin said...

If you like girly fluff, I'd recommend Fruits Basket and Boys Over Flowers, Ceres: Celestial legend or Fushigi Yugi-if you like fantasy