Graphic novels have for a long time been a big part of the book and publishing industry, with most if not all of them being targeted at tweens, teens, and younger adults.
Graphic novels can follow any genre and are often used by writers to tackle hard-hitting issues that face young people today, such as family, friendship, mental health, romantic relationships, and much more.
Graphic novels have also become somewhat of a safe haven for LGBTQ+ writers and readers, with these books able to simply tell the stories of the struggles these people may face, while also being interesting and compelling to read.
Graphic novels particularly thrive when covering topics such as war, history, racism, and immigration. But that doesn’t mean that all of these books are hard-hitting and somewhat tragic.
You can find a graphic novel that covers almost any topic or genre that you can think of. What about a scary story with ghosts and ghouls? Then Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is perfect for you.
Or perhaps you’re looking for a more sporty story. In that case, you just have to read Fence by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad. With so many options out there, you probably don’t even know where to begin.
That’s why we’ve made this list of the top 19 best graphic novels for teens and tweens to get you started. Keep reading to find your next favorite book!
The Best Graphic Novels For Teens And Tweens
These are the top graphic novels for teenagers, including examples from the genres of horror, memoir, historical fiction, fantasy, and much more.
In this graphic novel, Castellanos adopts a creative technique to the telling of this 1960s story about a little girl coming of age during the Cuban Revolution.
This is one of the more recent graphic novels, being published in 2022, and is intended for early tween readers.
Oddly for a book, the majority of this stunning graphic novel is wordless, particularly during the portion in which young Marisol relocates from Cuba to New York.
During this time, Marisol is only able to communicate in Spanish, and the narrative is told from her point of view, through her eyes and hearing. The narrative starts in Spanish, before changing throughout the book.
Marisol is reluctant to leave her home in Cuba or her family there, but after witnessing so much bloodshed, her parents conclude that it’s in her best interest for her to relocate to the United States as part of Operation Peter Pan.
Marisol is taken in by a Catholic family, and everyone works together to figure out how to live and thrive in this new setting. During this time of intense change, Marisol’s host family has been nothing but kind, patient, and understanding.
Despite this, Marisol’s environment, which was formerly filled with vibrant flowers and a sense of community, gradually becomes drab and silent — that is, until she discovers the library, books, and the botanical gardens in New York.
Marisol gradually adapts to this new environment, and as she does so, she rediscovers the joy that can be found in her favorite activities and hobbies that she did before she was separated from her family.
Isla To Island is a stunningly moving historical graphic novel for young adults, both in terms of the beautiful coloring of the drawings, as well as the narrative that’s both moving and heartwarming.
- The perfect example of immigrants starting a new life.
- Excellent attention to detail in the illustrations.
- There are no words in the novel.
Themes: family, separation, immigration, and new beginnings.
Travel across time to the United States in the graphic novel Displacement. During World War II, Japanese detention facilities, known as internment camps, sprung up everywhere. It’s here that this story takes place.
Kiku doesn’t know very much about the history of her family, including the fact that her late grandmother was a well-known musician loved by many.
Nevertheless, when Kiku finds herself magically displaced in time during a real-life visit to her grandmother’s neighborhood in San Francisco, she saw firsthand how the United States forcibly relocated Japanese-Americans into horrible camps, which were just glorified prisons.
The author Hughes emphasizes the significance of understanding and recognizing the effects of generational trauma through the use of a pretty straightforward narrative technique, and many of the p[ages are intentionally left blank to show the divide between the generations.
Displacement serves as a jarring reminder of how close we can be to repeating history if we don’t learn from past mistakes. The goal of this book is to teach this history to prevent something similar from (hopefully) occurring again.
For young adult books on World War II, “Displacement” offers a straightforward approach to the complex topics of politics, trauma, war, and racism.
Teens who like reading about time travel will find that this is one of the best historical graphic novels they can read.
- The different time periods and their transitions are handled well.
- Ideal for learning more about internment camps.
- Some readers found the ending a little rushed.
Themes: generational trauma, racism, war, history, and personal discovery.
This is a very popular graphic novel that lives up to its hype.
The story follows Josie and Deja, who during the fall season may be found toiling away in the Succotash Hut, which is located on the most prestigious pumpkin farm in Omaha, Nebraska.
They are the best of friends during the season, but never see each other after the season is done.
It’s their final autumn in the patch before heading off to school, and Deja is determined to make the most of it by indulging in all of her favorite activities, including eating everything.
She also hopes that Josie will work up the nerve to approach his secret admirer, Fudge Girl.
As they work, Josie and Deja start thinking more deeply about their bond. Why are they only friends during certain times of the year? And does Josie’s imagination make Fudge Girl seem more impressive and perfect for him than she actually is?
Rowell and Hicks are sure to get you in the mood for autumn, complete with all of the season’s most enjoyable activities including apple picking, corn mazes, hay rides, and pumpkin patches.
In Pumpkinheads, the warm pumpkin spice fall-colored drawings are beautiful reminders of the season, and like Josie and Deja, you may find yourself coming back to this story season after season.
- Perfect read during Fall.
- The characters are well-developed.
- Some readers found the storyline predictable in places.
Themes: friendship, relationships, truth, vulnerability, and freedom.
There are a lot of fantastic young adult graphic books based on sports fiction, and one of the most popular ones is called Fence. The first book in the series is an excellent choice for a quick read; you may even finish it in an hour.
You’ll gobble up this young adult graphic novel in no time if you’re a fan of stories that include unlikeable characters. The fencing guys are cocky, they sleep around, and for the most part, they’re rich annoyances that bother everyone around them.
Nicholas Cox’s father was a fencing champion in the past, but he has disowned him in favor of his golden boy “legitimate” son who is also an accomplished fencer.
Nick’s ambition to become the fencing champion is fueled by both his pain and his envy. Nick receives a fencing scholarship to attend a prominent school, but he almost immediately feels like an outsider there.
The coach criticizes him for having weak fencing technique, which is because he never had formal fencing training like the other students. Instead, he’s more self-taught.
Nick, on the other hand, is nimble and plays left-handed, qualities that distinguish him as a one-of-a-kind and reliable player. Nick has set his sights on triumphing over his formidable opponent, Seiji Katayama, who also happens to be his roommate.
This is the first volume out of three, and it ends on a huge cliffhanger that will leave you shocked, surprised, and desperate to know more. Have the other two volumes handy, because you’ll be dying to know how this dramatic story ends.
- Plenty of information about fencing.
- Ideal for those that enjoy a series rather than a standalone graphic novel.
- Not everyone was a fan of the cliffhanger ending.
Themes: family, isolation, relationships, and family obligations.
When Stars Are Scattered takes readers to Kenya, where they are shown the plight of African refugees and discover the significance of family.
Omar and his brother Hassan, both of whom are originally from Somalia, have made their current home at Dadaab, which is the largest refugee camp in all of Africa. Their mother is missing, and their father is dead, leaving them all alone.
When they first arrived at the camp, Omar thought it would just be a temporary home for him and his brother, yet, it has been almost ten years since they have called their makeshift shelter in the desert home.
With no running water and electricity in their shack, every day is a struggle. Omar, who is dedicated to taking care of his non-verbal brother, is starving, bored, and beginning to lose hope that anything will ever change.
On the other hand, when the community urges him to make the most of the opportunities that have been presented to him, such as attending school, he starts to have hope for a different kind of future.
After all, Omar is one of those brilliantly sparkling stars in the night sky. You may have noticed that one of the authors of this book and the character of Omar have the same name.
That’s because incredibly this is a true story that is based on Omar’s actual childhood experiences in the camp, When Stars Are Scattered is a story that is personal, uplifting, and significant.
- The story is handled beautifully.
- Perfect for younger and older readers.
- Some readers found the visuals lacking.
Themes: family love, education, forgiveness, human spirit, and perseverance.
When fleeing South Vietnam in the 1970s with her family, Bui describes in her insightful memoir what it was like to grow up in California as an immigrant after they make their way there.
As Bui prepares to become a mother herself – and settles into this new role – she thinks back on her childhood, specifically how her family raised her, her connection to Vietnam, and the connections that her family members have with one another.
Even though Bui’s family can arrive in the United States without incident, Bui emphasizes the trauma that has been passed down through the generations as well as the difficulties and discrimination they experience as new immigrants.
In the present day, Bui is responsible for taking care of not just her newborn child but also her aged parents, the histories of whom are revealed as the narrative progresses.
This is a heartbreaking story that, though told in graphic novel form, is still poignant enough to make you really feel for what the characters are going through.
This book also shows a side to history that is very rarely taught in American schools, as it focuses heavily on the Vietnam war that devastated the country, as well as destroyed thousands of people’s lives.
Discover more about the war, and accompany Bui as she travels the path from suffering to understanding, reconciliation, and acceptance.
This is a story that will probably appeal more and be better suited to mature readers like older teens and young adults, as it deals with some heavy themes that may not be suitable for a younger audience.
- Beauty and tragedy are blended well together.
- Accessible for all readers.
- Some readers found it hard to connect with the characters.
Themes: family, loss, immigration, new beginnings, and repressed feelings.
Nimona is one of those young adult graphic novels that have the potential to make you a lifelong fan of the subgenre.
Based in a fantasy setting, Nimona is a shapeshifter that has a talent for getting herself into problems due to her extremely ambitious, impetuous, and unpredictable nature.
As Lord Blackheart’s sidekick, the two of them work together in their mission to disprove the thought that the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin are the heroic figures that they portray themselves to be.
However, Lord Blackheart does not live up to the reputation of his namesake, as he is often engaging in humorous escapades. To avoid giving away too many surprises, let’s just say that instead of a normal heart, he might have a large rainbow one.
- The villain has a wonderful backstory.
- The main character is very likable.
- Not everyone enjoyed the ending.
Themes: LGBT, heroes and villains, new beginnings, love, hate, and absolution.
Step into a world where your nightmares have the power to take your life and your skin can transform into a home for worm-like offspring. Then, in one of the creepiest stories for young adults, toss in murders, spirits, and body parts all mixed together.
Through the Woods is a collection of five short stories written by Carroll that follow the protagonist on a perilous journey through the forest and into the abyss.
The gloomy and disturbing artwork found in this amazing teen graphic book is a large part of its allure. They are a little spooky, yet at the same time enchanting.
Find creepy eyes that are either grayed out or absent as claws rip through the pages, splashing blood throughout all five of the tales. It isn’t overly graphic, but it does have the appropriate amount of creepiness.
If you’re looking for an extra spooky book to get you ready for Halloween, Through the Woods truly gets you in the spirit of things. Adults who are interested in reading terrifying graphic novels will also find something here to their liking.
- Beautiful illustrations.
- A lot of content is packed into each story.
- Not all of the endings have a resolution.
Themes: Gothic horror, family, love, regret, and uncovering secrets.
In this fantasy book, Aiza’s only shot at becoming a full citizen of the Bayt-Sajji Empire is to work her way up through the ranks of the Knighthood.
She can enlist in the Squire training program although the empire is experiencing starvation and discontent.
However, training under General Hende is not quite how she expected it would be, and she must not only endure meeting new friends and adversaries but also rigorous training to succeed.
Aiza is also a member of the Ornu people, which is a community that has been conquered by the Bayt-Sajji Empire. And as she is about to find out, the military of Bayt-Sajji does not have the welfare of her community’s best interests in mind.
The Empire may be a potential threat to their lives. In one of the most compelling fantasy graphic novels for young adults about bravery, imperialism, and prejudice, Aiza is forced to choose where her allegiance lies.
- Excellent exploration of friendships.
- Detailed footnotes are great for anyone that wants to learn about the inspiration of the story.
- The story feels a little short and could have been longer.
Themes: family, racism, loyalty, hope, friendship, and belonging.
The graphic novels that make up Oseman’s Heartstopper series are, without a doubt, the best there are for young adults. These graphic novels deal with difficult topics such as mental illness and bullying, but they will also fill your heart with love.
In the first book, Charlie and Nick are introduced to the reader. Charlie is one of the few openly gay students at his school, and he finds himself developing feelings for Nick, who he believes to be straight.
Nick, on the other hand, is starting to become more aware of and comfortable with his bisexuality, but the fear of bullying is forcing him to keep his secret. He also wants to tell his mother but is too worried about how she’ll react.
It isn’t much of a spoiler to say that by the time we get to the second and third books in the series, we get to watch Charlie and Nick transform their relationship into something deeper and possibly more public.
There is also a vacation to the city of Paris included for a change of scenery.
By the time the fourth book is out, we are aware that Charlie is having issues with his mental health, and Nick has learned both the limits of his potential as a partner and the most effective ways to help Charlie.
It’s safe to say that young adult graphic novels that deal with LGBTQ+ topics do not get any better than this, and you will want to have the whole series ready because these are very quick and easy reads to get through.
After reading these graphic novels, you should check out the beautiful adaptation made by Netflix, which stays true to the original and lets you see your favorite characters on the screen.
- An interesting storyline.
- Lots of wonderful representations.
- No conflict or buildup.
Themes: LGBTQ, coming of age, exploration, and love.
In Bloom, the greatest in LGBTQ+ YA graphic books and the best in gourmet fiction collide. After completing his high school education, Ari’s top priority is to pursue his dream of being a successful musician and frontman for his band.
However, Ari’s family doesn’t have the financial means to send him to college, and they cannot afford to let him leave their bakery, which is only just surviving.
Hector applies for the job just as Ari is looking for someone to take his position, and he immediately fits in with bakery life and Ari’s family. Hector and Ari quickly get along, which causes Ari to begin to question where his life is heading.
Are others able to catch Hector’s enthusiasm for baking? And what are Ari’s plans for the rest of his life?
Is it possible for everyone to get back on their feet after the terrible disaster that occurred at the bakery, including the already rocky relationship between Hector and Ari? You’ll have to read this book to find out!
- Baking and love blend together beautifully.
- The main characters are developed well.
- Readers would have liked to learn more about Hector.
Themes: love, coming of age, and finding your own path.
Tillie Walden’s Spinning is a memoir of her childhood spent growing up at the ice skating rink. It‘s one of the most honest and gut-wrenching nonfiction LGBT graphic novels for young adults, but it’s also one of the most popular.
There are trigger warnings for a variety of topics, including, despair, bullying, and homophobia, to mention a few, and so this book is aimed at older teens and above.
Tillie, a young lady who’s gay and who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, is keeping her sexual orientation a secret from everyone. She is the target of bullying at school, which is a challenge given the fact that she is a new student.
Tillie is also a great competitive skater, but she despises the sport and the early morning wake-up calls that come with it.
The fact that her parents never show up to any of her events or training, and that she is failing in life outside of the sport, does not help matters.
Will Tillie be able to identify what it is that she truly wants for herself and share that with her friends and family?
This book will take you back to the struggles (and horrors) of your teenage years, and you won’t be able to stop thinking about this Eisner award–winning graphic novel long after you’ve finished reading it.
Spinning is not just one of the lengthier graphic novels for teens on this list, but it is also one of the more somber tales told in graphic novel style.
- A good introduction to graphic novels.
- Provides a lot of detail about being a young figure skater.
- Some readers found the ending unsatisfying.
Themes: childhood, coming of age, child achievement, and romance.
Fantasy and witchy book fans will find the most enjoyment in Salt Magic, which also contains a few creepy themes. As much as Vonceil loves helping out on the farm that her family owns in Oklahoma, she longs for something more exciting.
When her brother Ebner returns from World War I and settles down, she is devastated by the change in him. Ebner grew up so quickly as a result of the war, and he has both physical and mental scars as a result of his experiences.
When a witch in white arrives at the farm to try and steal Ebner and discovers that he is already married, she lays a curse on the only supply of water on the property.
To rescue her loved ones, Vonceil travels to a mystical land to do anything she can to stop the curse. What will she have to give up, and what will she be able to gain, along the way?
Salt Magic, which is aimed at preteens and young adults, gets off to a shaky start but builds momentum and becomes more odd and exciting as it progresses.
If you keep reading, Larson and Mock will reward you with a story about jealousy, love, and loneliness, but also about family and its importance.
- The plot is well-paced.
- Beautiful use of color throughout.
- Some readers found the last scene jarring compared to the rest of the graphic novel.
Themes: mystery, secrets, love, family, and coming of age.
The Girl from the Sea is one of the most endearing graphic books for teenagers and preteens on this list, and readers who enjoy stories about mermaids should not pass up the opportunity to read them.
Morgan, age 15, is keeping her sexual orientation a secret from both her friends and her family. On top of this, she’s attempting to navigate a tumultuous household in which her parents have recently divorced and her brother is withdrawn.
One day, while out on the cliffs, Morgan falls into the sea and becomes dangerously close to drowning, but is saved by another teenager called Keltie. Though Keltie looks pretty typical at first, Morgan is shocked to see that she’s a mermaid.
As the two young women move beyond just being friends, it’s up to Morgan to determine how she will break the news of both her sexuality and her newfound love to her family and friends.
Unfortunately, her pals are contributing more negative than positive energy to the situation. To make it even more stressful, Morgan’s family is starting boat tours around their Canadian island, which puts Keltie and her family at risk.
We absolutely adore young adult stories that are affirming of LGBT identities and perspectives, but The Girl from the Sea may require more than one box of tissues.
- Easy to read, especially for younger teens.
- Good exploration of the LGBT community.
- The forced ‘outing’ can be difficult to read.
Themes: LGBT, love, fear, and community.
If you enjoy reading books that feature witches and werewolves, Mooncakes will satisfy all of your reading needs. To top it all off, it’s even set partly in a bookstore.
Travel to New England, where a witch named Nova Huang, who is both deaf and queer, investigates strange phenomena while working in the bookshop that her family owns.
As Nova travels deeper into the forest, she is reunited with Tam, her long-lost childhood sweetheart and best friend. Tam, who’s a non-binary werewolf, is on the run because someone is trying to steal their powers.
Can Nova help her childhood best friend? Mooncakes are an LGBT fantasy novel for adults and teenagers that infuses love and friendship with a little bit of enchantment.
- Wonderful representation throughout the book.
- Detailed artwork.
- Cultural identity aspects could have been explored further.
Themes: romance, first love, LGBTQA, family, and the supernatural.
If there’s one graphic novel that you’ve heard about on this list, it’s probably this one. Maus is a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel aimed at young adults and is considered to be one of the most influential books ever written about Poland during WWII.
You should not pass up the opportunity to read this book. The narrative follows the life of Holocaust survivor Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew, as well as the life of his cartoonist son, Art Spiegelman.
Spiegelman conducts interviews with his father and documents the landscape of Europe during Hitler’s rule, including his father’s time spent in the concentration camp Auschwitz.
The pictures depict the Jews as mice, while the Nazis are portrayed as cats. The execution of this concept is outstanding.
As with similar works on the war, this one teaches us more about the relationships of families and the impact that war leaves behind. This is a story about surviving that is heavy with feelings of guilt as well as affection.
- Deals with the Holocaust well throughout the book.
- The stylistic choice reflects the propaganda used during the 1930s.
- Not suitable for all younger readers due to the content.
Themes: family, love, fear, compassion, survival, and genocide.
The reasons behind Pri’s mother’s departure from India remain a mystery, and she hasn’t been in contact with the rest of the family there in more than a decade.
When Pri inquires about her Indian father, her mother quickly shifts the conversation to another topic.
Pri is having trouble with her family and figuring out who she is, but she finds comfort in her uncle Jatin, who plays somewhat of a father figure role in her life.
But because uncle Jatin is expecting a child of his own, their relationship is set to undergo a significant transition. Pri makes a wish to the goddess Shakti, which results in a shift in her perspective on life.
As well as the enchanted pashmina woven from golden thread sourced from India, Pri is shown both the commercialized version of India and India in its more natural state.
The graphic novel Pashmina is insightful and tells a story of heritage and family. It’s aimed at young adults who are looking for graphic novels on the South Asian diaspora, racism, and classism. This is a true tale about coming to terms with one’s roots.
- Good exploration of India.
- A captivating story that you can read in a day!
- Quite sad in parts.
Themes: racism, classism, coming to terms with identity, and coming of age.
Are you looking for teen graphic novels that deal with poisonous relationships but have a lot of angst? Then Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is the book for you.
Frederica Riley, sometimes known as Freddy, has moments where she simply cannot believe that she is dating Laura Dean, one of the most popular girls at their school.
The problem is that Laura Dean is a terrible person in general, but especially as a girlfriend. However, Freddy just can’t seem to let her go.
Freddy gives up a lot for Laura Dean, including her friendships and her happiness, which is typical of the narrative arcs that revolve around adolescent love.
Especially for readers, it’s tedious and frustrating to watch Laura Dean walk all over her character in the story. On the other hand, if you were a teenager, you would probably get it.
Freddy is unsure about whether or not she should finally end her relationship with Laura Dean to end the destructive cycle of their relationship. This pull-and-push dynamic of the couple makes it a fascinating read.
- Realistic characters you will fall in love with!
- Perfect for 14-16-year-olds.
- Some readers found the book biphobic in parts.
Themes: love, identity, LGBTQ, coming of age, and relationships.
George Takei has created an astonishing and heart-wrenching narrative about his time spent incarcerated in American concentration camps during World War II.
Takei was just a small boy when his family was forcibly removed from their home and placed in one of ten “relocation camps,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered in 1942.
This occurred long before Takei became famous for his role as Mr. Sulu in the Star Trek franchise. Takei addresses the effects that this had not only on his family but also on society and America at large.
This is a story about racism that’s institutionalized and legislated, democracy, and nationalism (or the lack thereof), and it asks the question of what it means to be an American.
- Very educational.
- The characters are well-developed.
- The story would be better told by the characters rather than a narrator.
Themes: identity, trauma, coming of age, and racism.
While there are hundreds of amazing graphic novels out there, we think that these are the very best for teens and tweens to get started with.
While many of these have more adult themes, they are explored in a meaningful and insightful way and can be a helpful way for young people to learn more about the world, relationships, love, loss, and more.