Here are some of the latest and greatest graphic novels around, as recommended by the American Library Association's 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. See if you agree with my favorites from this list, and feel free to recommend some of your own!
Brain Camp by Susan Kim
Camp Fielding is a special, invitation-only educational summer camp for kids whose parents wish that they were better students. Lucas and Jenna are two teenagers who fit that description. Lucas' mother thinks that he is lazy with a bad attitude. Jenna's parents think that she is an underachiever. Camp Fielding has very unusual methods for increasing students' brain power, but only the director and counselors know what those methods are. By the time Lucas and Jenna discover how their fellow campers have been getting smarter, why some of the kids have disappeared, and who is really running Camp Fielding, their lives will be in incredible danger.
Bokurano Ours Vol 1 by Mohiro Kitoh
The first hint we have that something unusual is going to happen in this book is when we read the character data sheets and discover that each character is introduced by name, nickname, grade level, height, and ... blood type. Fifteen friends, a mix of boys and girls, visit the beach during a summer program called The Seaside Friendship and Nature School. When they decide to explore a nearby cave, they're surprised to discover a secret room filled with computers and chairs. A man who calls himself Kokopelli invites them to test out a game involving a giant robot, the planet earth, and fifteen enemies. The kids are confused by what happens next -- Why do they have to agree to a contract? Is this a computer game, or something else? When the kids wake up on the beach, they're convinced that Kokopelli and the game were part of a dream they shared. But very soon they will discover that the game is real, and that there's a lot more at stake than they realized.
Biomega Vol. 1 by Tsutomu Nihei
In the year 3005, the N5S virus has turned most of the earth's population into zombies. [I know what you're thinking—Isn't the "year of the zombies" over already? Well, more and more books are still being published featuring zombie characters, so I have a feeling that we might be in the DECADE of the zombies!] Anyway, a synthetic human named Zoichi Kanoe is on a dangerous mission to try to save what's left of humanity. Along the way he'll encounter agents of the Compulsory Execution Unit, a talking bear, and an unusual teenager named Eon Green—a girl who might hold the key to understanding the N5S virus.
The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects by Mike Mignola
The first part of this book tells the tale of a robotic head that is ordered by president Abraham Lincoln to locate an artifact that was stolen from The Museum of Dangerous Books and Paper by that dastardly villain, Emperor Zombie [again with the zombies!] And just in case you were wondering, the other parts of this book tell stories that are almost as strange as that one.
Set to Sea by Andrew Weing
When I took this book out of the pile of graphic novels on my desk and flipped through the pages, my first thought was that it must be a children's book. But after I started reading this very short story and came to the fight scene between the sailors and the pirates, I understood why this was shelved in our adult collections, instead. Set to Sea tells the story of a man who writes poems about the sea without really understanding it. One night he is shanghaied while he sleeps on the docks, and when he wakes up his entire life has changed. As time passes, he has many life-changing (and life-threatening) experiences, and he grows as a person and as a writer in ways that he never expected. This is one profound little book!
The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane (translated from the French by Matt Madden)
This is the first English translation of the work of Aristophane, who created comics until he died in 2004 at the very young age of 37. This book tells the story of three sisters at the beginning of their summer vacation, enjoying simple pleasures like finding crabs by the river and forbidden activities like smoking a pipe and stealing mangoes. The Zabime Sisters is an unusual book for American audiences in several ways, because of the tropical island setting (Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean) and because of the artwork that is both delicate and rustic at the same time.
To learn more about the great graphic novels that were selected for ALA's list, you can check out some of my previous graphic novel posts. There's this one, where I reviewed several graphic novels including Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel, Saturn Apartments 1 by Hisae Iwaoka, and Sweet Tooth 1 by Jeff Lemire. And there's also this one, where I reviewed How I Made it to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White. You can also check out the posts of some of my fellow bloggers, like this post by Ryan P. Donovan about Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and this post by Kristy Raffensberger about Meanwhile by Jason Shiga. And don't forget that if you want find out more about graphic novels and manga, you can always browse through all of our blog posts listed under the "Comics & Graphic Novels" category.