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Graphic novels, memoirs and comics for young adults have exploded in recent years, with more and more original content published by Big Five publishers. It’s exciting on many levels – new content is always welcome, new talent is showcased, and stories that might not have had a wide platform are now sought after. One thing that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon is adapting existing YA books. It’s something that’s been happening for a while, mostly with a YA audience with a huge built-in audience (think Twilight, which was adapted into a manga, and The Mortal Instruments, which was adapted into a series of “novels graphics” but the art is very reminiscent of the manga), and this has continued in recent years, although many original graphic novels have hit the market.
I’m intrigued by comic adaptations of existing works because I imagine it’s a delicate balance that brings a long text to a graphic format. What is interpreted in the artwork and how does an artist choose what to focus on? What text is cut from the new adaptation? How do the artist and the adapter/writer translate a complex emotion previously expressed by the text into a hybrid format? I find it fascinating, especially since there are some really good books that make sense for adaptations (Long Way Down, for example) but others that I didn’t expect, but love . I also think it’s a great way for older books to find new audiences and get new updates!
Whether you read the original text or not, I highly recommend checking out these beautiful and engaging graphic novel adaptations of YA novels! We’ve got everything from great YA releases to deep backlist titles that have found new readers in a new form.
Fangirl, vol. 1: The manga of Rainbow Rowell, Sam Maggs and Gabi Nam
The first volume of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl manga adaptation was released in 2020, with the second volume due out later this year. Adapted by comic book writer Sam Maggs and illustrated by South Korean artist Gabi Nam, this series tells the story of Cath, a freshman student and fan of the hit series Simon Snow. When she enters university without her twin sister, she immerses herself in writing fan fiction. But the real world also creeps in: her roommate and friend, a writing partner, and college classes that challenge her in unexpected ways.
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll
Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking novel Speak is one that makes perfect sense for a graphic adaptation to me – it’s a highly visual text about a girl who is selectively mute after a traumatic incident at a party. Melinda is hated after what happened at the party last summer, making the first year miserable and lonely. But an art class and new friends and allies slowly allow her to come to terms with what has happened to her and find her voice.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Gareth Hinds
Gareth Hinds adapted and illustrated Graceling, Cashore’s groundbreaking first fantasy film, bringing its rich fantasy world to life with stunning visuals. In the story, people with different colored eyes possess supernatural abilities called Graces. Katsa’s Grace is made to kill and she is used as a pawn by an unscrupulous king, but when she meets a foreign prince named Po, Katsa reconsiders her loyalties and makes a decision to own her power. I love how Hinds weaves fantasy maps and world-building elements into and among the art.
Juliet Takes a Breath: The Graphic Novel by Gabby Rivera and Celia Moscote
Juliet Takes a Breath was originally published by a small press before being picked up by Dial, so it’s been making waves for a while now! It’s about Juliet, a teenager from the Bronx who travels to Portland, Oregon, for the summer to be an assistant to a queer feminist writer she practically worships. Before leaving, she comes out to her family… and this is only the beginning of a summer of discoveries, first loves and introspection. Juliette’s story is so vibrant that I can imagine the illustrations popping off the page.
Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel by Ned Vizzini, David Levithan and Nick Bertozzi
Be More Chill was the debut novel by the late Ned Vizzini. It was released in 2004 and follows Jeremy, an unpopular teenager who swallows a supercomputer in the form of a pill that instructs him on how to be cool, with interesting results. The book was adapted into a Broadway show, rose to internet fame and is now reaching a wider audience in a graphic novel adapted by bestselling author David Levithan, with illustrations by Nick Bertozzi.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean
For a novel that revolves around creepy and unsettling vintage photos, it’s no surprise to learn that Riggs’ debut novel has been adapted into a graphic novel. The story is about Jacob, who grew up with his grandfather’s stories of the peculiar children in Miss Peregrine’s household. He even has the photos to prove it, and Jacob assumes they are illusions or fake…until he gets the chance to see Miss Peregrine’s house for himself.
Monster: Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers, Guy A. Sims and Dawud Anyabwile
Walter Dean Myers’ Monster is groundbreaking in many ways, and among its many accolades, it’s the first novel to win the Printz Prize. It’s also a highly visual text about a black teenager named Steve who stands trial for robbery and murder, and envisions his story like a movie script, seeking to answer a complicated question: is Steve a monster? Walter Dean Myers died in 2014, and this 2015 graphic novel was adapted by Sims, with Anyabwile illustrating.
Vampire Academy: A Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead, Leigh Dragoon and Emma Vieceli
In the Golden Age of YA Vampires, the Vampire Academy series may not have reached the same heights as Twilight, but it was pretty well read, inspiring a movie starring Zoey Deutch. It follows Lissa and Rose, a vampire and a half-blood respectively, who flee from unknown danger when they are caught and brought back to Vampire Academy, a supposedly “safe” haven for the world’s vampires. But Rose knows the danger hasn’t passed and she’s on her guard, all the while trying not to fall in love with her sexy new teacher. Also, fun fact: the series has been revived for TV and is set to premiere on Peacock later this year!
Between Shades of Gray by Rita Sepetys, Andrew Donkin, Dave Kopek and Brann Livesay
Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel Between Shades of Gray became an international bestseller, was adapted for film, and is now a new graphic novel adapted by Andrew Donkin with artwork and color by Dave Kopek and Brann Livesay. When Lina and her family were arrested by the Soviets in 1941, they were deported to Siberia and separated from her father. Surviving the brutal conditions, Lina tries to hold on to the hope that she will one day return home and find her father, while using her abilities as an artist to help inspire courage in others.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds and Danica Novgorodoff
Jason Reynolds’ short but powerful verse novel is reproduced almost verbatim in this graphic novel, illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff. This is the moving story of Will, whose brother Shawn has just been shot. So he goes up to their apartment and grabs his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator to get down and get revenge, but on each floor the elevator stops and lets in someone from Will’s life who will challenge him and his decision, leaving readers nervous, wondering what which will happen when Will reaches the ground floor. .
Want more new YA graphic novels and comics? Check out our quarterly roundup of new YA graphic novel and comic book releases!