Four Adult Graphic Novels Perfect for Teens
YA as a category of graphic novels is still relatively new, but let’s not forget about
these great coming-of-age comics published for adults but ideal for older teen readers.
BY SARAH HUNTER
As we compiled our recent list of the 50 Best YA Books of All Time, I couldn’t help but think about how comics and graphic novels fit in. Teens have been stalwart fans of comics from the beginning, and although plenty of serialized
comic books have long-lasting resonance for YA readers, they didn’t quite fit our crite-
ria. Book-length graphic novels started to gain traction in the late 1970s, but YA as a
category of graphic novels remains a somewhat new phenomenon in the U.S.: YALSA
only started publishing its Great Graphic Novels for Teens list a decade ago, and only
one book on that list, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (2006), was originally
published as YA.
That doesn’t mean that sequential art narratives telling teen-friendly stories didn’t ex-
ist before American Born Chinese; on the contrary, plenty of graphic novels published
before 2006 contain coming-of-age stories ideal for a teen audience. Below, I reex-
amine four graphic novels published for adults that stand out particularly well as YA
narratives. For a variety of reasons, labeling these books as YA has been controversial.
The biggest reason, by and large, is the visual depiction of nudity and sex, an obstacle
for many adults when putting books in teens’ hands. But just as sexuality plays a sig-
nificant role in YA novels written only in words, it’s key to a few of these narratives,
too—the only difference is the medium in which it’s presented. The graphic novels be-
low tell elemental coming-of-age stories with plenty to offer older teen readers, so it’s
worth it to reconsider whether they belong exclusively on the adult shelves.
Ghost World, by Daniel Clowes.