It’s entirely possible that Hinako Ashihara’s Sand Chronicles (Viz) is less a great graphic novel for teens than a great graphic novel for former teens who remember the pointed moments of awkwardness and uncertainty of that time of life. Actual teens might look at it and think, “Yeah, I’m there now, so thanks for the reminder.” Either way, I think it’s a great graphic novel, so I’m going to nominate it.
In the second volume, Ann finds her life disrupted again by the return of her absentee father. She’s built a life for herself in the country, finding solace in friends and family after a dramatic loss in the first installment. Now she’s got to decide whose needs come first – her own for comfort and happiness, or her father’s.
Ashihara is so deft at balancing big drama with small moments. Ann’s woes never feel out of scale, heightened as they are. The difficult choices she faces are presented with nuance and surprisingly effective balance; there aren’t any villains here, just people whose priorities clash. Ashihara’s delicate illustrations and quirky sense of humor round things out beautifully.