Graphic Novel Literary Fiction

Name: Jackie Teeven
Genre: Graphic Novel
Title: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Author: Alison Bechdel
Appeal Factors: character driven, intimate memoir, by turns both moving and humorous
Read Alikes: The Undertaker’s Daughter by Katherine Mayfield, Fairyland by Alysia Abbott, and Maus by Art Spiegelman
Summary/Thoughts: This is an autobiography of Bechdel’s family but the central characters are Alison and her father, Bruce. He is a closeted homosexual although, his wife has always known and aids in the deception. Alison comes out as a lesbian once she goes away to college. Bruce is very controlling and emotionally distant and Alison aptly describes her family as “a still life with children” created by her father. She is the eldest, she has two younger brothers, and has always wanted to really connect with her father but even as a very young child she accurately perceived that this was no easy task. Their one shared love is literature. I won’t go into details on the storyline in case you have not read it and would like to. I found this book to be very worthwhile. It is painfully honest, tells a very detailed and poignant story in remarkably few words, and will make you both laugh and cry out loud.

Name: Carol Baldwin
Genre: graphic novel
Title: Daniel X Alien Hunter
Author: James Patterson and Leopoldo Gout
Appeal Factors: Action/Adventure
Read Alikes: Daniel X series and manga
Summary/Thoughts: This is the story of a teenage boy, Daniel, who has super powers and is the son of an alien hunter. He uses his imagination to create friends and family, as well as anything else he wants to. The moral of the tale involves saving earth from the aliens, and Daniel is pretty altruistic for a teen. Ironic humor is used throughout and there are plenty of plot twists, and battles. Downside? Limited depictions of females- they often need saving or are completely ineffectual. Upside? Saving earth, of course.

Name: Stefanie Aucoin
Genre: Literary Graphic Novel
Title: Girl in Dior
Author: Annie Goetzinger
Appeal Factors: Artistic style, subject matter (Biographical novel), pacing
Read Alikes: Dior and I (film)
Summary/Thoughts: This story follows Clara, a young woman covering Dior’s New Look fashion as a reporter only to end up as a model for Dior herself. It is a look into the House of Dior and its designer through the people who made and modeled the clothes.

I’m having a hard time finding read alikes for this as the story itself served more as a prop to move the art of the book along. Frankly I think this story could probably have been told without adding any dialogue and maybe just some directional text. It is really the art that captured me, and I think would be the appealing thing to a reader. The beautiful water color/fashion plates style art is really true to the clothes that Dior designed and is still breathtaking today.

Biographical novels have been very popular lately with Paula McLain’s Paris Wife and Circling the Sun, that I think this could be marketed to the readers of these novels, but they won’t find the substance in text that the novel versions have.

Name: Karen Perkins
Genre: Graphic Novel
Title: I Kill Giants
Author: Joe Kelly; Graphics Jim Ken Nimura
Appeal Factors: Coming of Age, Realistic fiction, Parental loss
Read Alikes: Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell; Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez; Perfect Example by John Porcellino
Summary/Thoughts: Fifth grader Barbara Thorson is sassy, precocious and has a wisecracking yet poignant answer for everything and everyone. Bullied for her individuality she is a loner until she makes fiends with the new girl in town, Sophia. Barbara always wears her Coveleski, a handmade heart shaped pouch, named after a rookie baseball player from 1908. Inside the Coveleski is a handmade Ur hammer named Polish she uses to kill giants. The true meaning of the Coveleski is a secret until she reveals it to Sophia. When she and Sophia have a misunderstanding, Sophia tells everyone the meaning of the Coveleski. Emotionally destroyed by this betrayal Barbara hits rock bottom which is the turning point in the story where she faces her giants seeing them for the truth they are. Clue: there is such a thing as good giants. There are also sassy precocious 5th graders who can warm your heart and make you cry. Barbara is not your typical 5th grader. Though she is angry about something she manages interesting and insightful conversations with her school counselor Mrs Molle.

Graphics are done in black and white, are very detailed expressing much of Barbara’s anger. They move the story between Barbara’s real world and her fantasies of giants and fairies. They also help with the text of the story. From the beginning the reader will wonder where Barbara’s parents are for the primary caregiver of her and her brother David is their older sister Karen. One does eventually learn that their father has left them but clues to their mother’s whereabouts are suspiciously scratched out of dialogue.

Though the main character is a 5th grader this book would be better appreciated at the junior high level.

Name: Tatanya Flannery
Genre: literary fiction
Title: Blankets
Author: Craig Thompson
Appeal Factors: reflective, character-driven, atomospheric
Read Alikes: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Summary/Thoughts: This lengthy but fast-moving graphic novel is a contemporary coming-of-age story set in the rural mid-west. The story centers on Craig, a lonely, sensitive boy growing up with his younger brother Phil in a Christian fundamentalist family. Craig’s childhood centers on home, school and church, and all are austere and forbidding places for him. Cowed by his father’s harsh discipline, the strict teachings of his church and the bullies at school who target him because of his small frame and family’s modest circumstances, he matures into young adulthood undaunted by circumstance, drawing strength from his artistic talent and a first love.

Name: heatherbrarian
Genre: Literary Graphic Novel
Title: Fun Home and Are You My Mother?
Author: Alison Bechdel
Appeal Factors: introspective, realistic artwork, character-driven, intellectual
Read Alikes: Stitches by David Small
Summary/Thoughts: A pair of memoirs about personal growth and difficult parent-child relationships. The first, Fun Home, focuses on Bechdel’s relationship with her closeted bisexual/gay father and her coming of age as an adult and a lesbian. The second, Are You My Mother?, focuses on Bechdel’s difficult relationship with her mother, especially as she is writing the book about her father.