Just because I like to mention this periodically, anyone can nominate a book for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. The list of nominations for 2009 was updated recently, including some books I really enjoy, some I really need to read, and some stumpers.
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.
This is as much for my own use as anything else, but I’ve decided to make a note here every time I nominate something for the Young Adult Library Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list (which you can do here).
High School Debut volume 2, by Kazune Kawahara (Viz): The first volume was intriguing, and the second is terrific. Upon entering high school, Haruna switched her extracurricular focus from softball to finding a boyfriend. She convinces a handsome fellow student, Yoh, to coach her through the process, as she’s pretty hopeless. It could have been perfectly dreadful, and some elements of the first volume were a little worrying, but Kawahara settles into a really lovely groove this time around. Yoh’s advice is actually pretty good, and Haruna demonstrates an admirable learning curve. That doesn’t mean everything turns out well, but Haruna’s confidence is growing in a really entertaining way. The tone has settled down a bit, and I love the blend of comedy and heartbreak, along with the smart, sweet observations Kawahara sprinkles throughout.
Mushishi volume 3, by Yuki Urushibara (Del Rey): This book has been spectacular from the beginning. Ginko wanders the countryside helping people cope with the effects of mushi, mysterious, primordial bugs. The episodes are almost all perfectly shaped little morality tales, and they’re beautifully drawn. Del Rey rates the book for ages 16 and up, but there’s nothing here that wouldn’t suit a younger reader. (Okay, Ginko smokes, so that might trip some content alarm.)