Each year, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) reviews graphic novels for their inclusion into their Great Graphic Novels for Teens (GGNT) list. The list comprises graphic novels with teen appeal for the middle-school through college ages of 12-18 that also represent quality literature. The 2014 list was announced at the beginning of February.
Tessa Barber, Chair of the 2014 GGNT committee, shared some insight into this year’s committee and the process of creating the GGNT list. The committee was made up of 11 public and school librarians from around the country. They were not only required to read every nomination but were also charged with reading every eligible graphic novel so they could find quality novels to nominate. Additionally, suggestions can be made through the YALSA website, but aren’t considered official until seconded by a committee member. In order to make the GGNT list, a novel needs at least seven votes with final decisions made at the ALA Midwinter conference.
According to Barber, last year there 98 nominations and 55 novels made the list. For 2014 there were 122 nominations with 78 novels making the list, making it a 25% increase in the nomination pool and 42% increase the number of novels on the list.
Is the list promoting graphic novels and encouraging teen readers? I asked Women Write About Comics writer and Young Adult services librarian, Ivy Noelle Weir, about the graphic novel section at her public library in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Over the past two years, their offering has increased, now offering the largest selection in their county-wide interlibrary loan system, but the largest demographic for their graphic novels is for adult men between the ages of 18 to 35.
As for teen readers, perception of who reads comics books and graphic novels may still be at play as she finds “teenagers are harder to get into the idea of reading a book that might be perceived as “nerdy.”
She says the GGNT list “actually helps a lot because parents will pick those books up off the display for their teens, and then the teens will come in and get them themselves after that.” She’s also seen a growing trend for educators requesting graphic novels. “It’s a much easier hook for problem readers: a lot of them are more willing to deal with the smaller amount of text in a comic of The Hound of the Baskervilles than the real thing” says Weir.
And that might be enough to consider the YALSA committee’s goals for GGNT list a success.
When asked about this year’s results, Barber says, “I’m really happy with the books published this year and the committee’s work in finding them. It is all volunteer work. We’re doing it purely for the love of comics and a desire to create a great tool for recommending books, developing library collections, and promoting awareness of how many awesome comics are published every year.”
2014 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens
March: Book 1. Top Shelf
John Lewis is a Congressman now, but back in the 60s he was a teenager standing up for justice.
Will & Whit. Amulet Books
Will faces her fear of the dark, new friends, love, a hurricane and the death of her parents.
The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse
The life of a superhero is not all monsters and flying–especially when you have no archnemesis and a more popular superhero brother.
Dogs of War. Graphix
Dogs can be heroes, too.
MIND MGMT V.1: The Manager. Dark Horse
A journalist trails a missing passenger from “Amnesia Flight 815” and discovers a much bigger mystery.
Rust V.2: Secrets of the Cell. Archaia
Is Jet a killing machine or just a boy who’s been used to fight a distant war?
War Brothers: The Graphic Novel. Annick Press
Kids are kidnapped and forced to be killers in Uganda’s Resistance Army.
Strobe Edge V.1-6. VIZ Media
Ninako has fallen in love for the first time and must learn how to navigate her feelings.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. First Second
The Cheerleaders and the Robotics Club team up to get money for their school activities.
Boxers & Saints. First Second
Little Bao’s peaceful village is disrupted when a priest and a group of soldiers begin terrorizing the locals. Four-Girl is unwanted by her family, and finds solace amongst the Christians who are invading her country.
The full list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens can be found on the YALSA website. The list is accessible through their smartphone app.