Books for Clever Girls: Graphic Novels & Comics for Teens/Young Women

Updated on December 19, 2014
shay-marie profile image

My name is Shay and I'm a millennial. I've hand-picked 19 Christmas gifts that are sure to please the gals of my generation.

Books for Clever Girls: Graphic Novels & Comics for Teens & Young Women
Books for Clever Girls: Graphic Novels & Comics for Teens & Young Women | Source

Starter Books for Future Comic Aficionados

My husband is a comic book illustrator and over the years he has slowly introduced me to his world. Out of respect for the true die-hards, I'm not going to call myself a comic book fan, but I would call myself a fan of well made art, good storytelling, and comedy.

As such, with the help of my husband, I've found a number of illustrators, writers, comic book series, and graphic novels that I truly enjoy. While I have not read every book listed here (yet), based on reviews, critical reception, generalized buzz, and my husband's two cents, I think I've picked out a fantastic collection of comics for teens and young women. These books serve as the perfect introduction to the world of comics.

Comics Poll!

Do you read comic books?

See results
Starter Comic Books for Female Readers
Starter Comic Books for Female Readers | Source

What's a Graphic Novel?

The word "graphic" in "graphic novel" refers to pictures on a page, as opposed to explicit or suggestive content. Graphic novels are simply stand-alone stories, whereas comic book series are released over a longer span of time. It's like comparing a single movie to an ongoing television show. For those unfamiliar with modern comics, it's important to note that not all comics are about superheroes. There are a TON of graphic novels that do not follow this archetype at all.

Starter Graphic Novels - Suitable for Younger Girls

Take a flying leap out of the YA book box with graphic novels. The following 4 coming-of-age graphic novels have received wild praise and glowing reviews. They provide the perfect place for a clever girl to jump into the comic book world.

Included in this section: "Smile" by Raina Telgemeier, "Friends With Boys" by Faith Erin Hicks, "Anyas Ghost" by Vera Brosgol, and "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi.

"Smile" is arguably the best graphic novel aimed at the younger set to come out in recent memory. Author Raina Telgemeier tells her autobiographical coming-of-age story of her 6th grade self dealing with the trials and tribulations of life, friends, boys, and dental misadventures. Even though it's labeled as being for 8-13 year olds, my husband thinks I'd really enjoy this book.
Friends with Boys
Friends with Boys
"Friends with Boys" is another graphic novel that has received a lot of praise. Author Faith Erin Hicks tells the classic coming-of-age story with the not so classic supernatural twist. "Friends with Boys" is aimed at the 12-16 age group.

The two graphic novels below are told from the perspective of girls in families that we do not see much of in American pop culture (as protagonists anyway). The protagonist of Anya's Ghost is a member of a Russian immigrant family in the US, while the protagonist of Persepholis is an Iranian in Tehran.

Anya's Ghost
Anya's Ghost
Anya's Ghost features the stunningly simple illustrations of Vera Brosgol, paired with her equally haunting story, makes for an engaging coming-of-age story that many teens can relate to. "Anya's Ghost" is best for 12 - 17 year olds, but it's a good read for adults as well (I loved it!).
The Complete Persepolis
The Complete Persepolis
You might have heard of "Persepolis" as it was made into a movie in 2007. Marjane Satrapi's "comic memoir" is a much praised graphic novel about a young woman's experiences in and out of Tehran during the Revolution of 1979. Considering the gravity of the subject matter, Persepolis does have some more mature themes. It is suitable for high school aged kids and up.

Graphic Novels for Women - For Mature, Older Teens and 20 Something Gals

The following two graphic novels are considered among the best out there today. The do contain more mature themes, however, and are not suitable for children.

Included in this section: "Blankets" by Craig Thompson & "Black Hole" by Charles Burns

Although only a decade old, Craig Thompson's "Blankets" has become a classic in the genre. It is a testament to the beauty of the graphic novel art form. Put quite simply, "Blankets" tells the author's own story, from adolescence through adulthood in a way that grabs the reader and doesn't let go.
Black Hole (Pantheon Graphic Library)
Black Hole (Pantheon Graphic Library)
Indeed a strange and unique tale, "Black Hole" tells the story of a ficticious STD outbreak amongst teens in the 1970s suburbs of Seattle. As a twist, this "Bug" manifests as anything from a simple rash, to a tiny mouth popping up on the body, to complete grotesque disfigurement. Very strange indeed, but also ripe with characters that keep you fully engaged and emotionally connected. Black Hole is a must read.

What's a Trade Paperback?

When you picture a comic book, you likely imagine a small, thin and flimsy magazine. Trade paperbacks are simply collections of these comic books in a sturdier form that resembles a normal paperback book. When a comic book series is currently running, new books will come out every month or so. After a story arc is completed, a trade paperback is typically released, collecting the separate issues. If a comic book series is a TV show, then a trade paperback would be a single season of that show.

Good Starter Comic Book Series for Girls

If you're thinking of introducing a child to the world of comics, the following three series provide a good place to start.

Included in this section: "Bone" by Jeff Smith, "Adventure Time" by Ryan North, and "Beasts of Burden" by Jill Thompson

Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume
Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume
Bone is a much beloved comic book series that has won multiple awards over it's impressive 13 year run. "Bone" shadows the adventures of 3 cousins in a fantasy world akin to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. This collection includes all 1,344 pages of the series and is suitable of kids aged 9 and up.
Adventure Time Vol. 1
Adventure Time Vol. 1
The Adventure Time comic book series is based on the equally loved-across-all-age-groups TV show of the same name. It's hilarious, and weird, and incredibly well written and illustrated. This series is current, meaning they will continue to come out with new ones after you get through the first 3 trade paperbacks. Adventure Time is suitable for kids and adults aged 4 and up.

The next comic here features some unique art for comics and some more mature themes. I think it's a fun read for adults too:

Beasts of Burden
Beasts of Burden
The Beasts of Burden is about a group of dogs (and a cat) that solve mysteries. It's basically a doggy horror series. Despite the amiable look of this book's all animal cast, Beasts of Burden is a series that is best for older teens. It's the equivalent of a PG-13 movie - there are some darker elements, but it's nothing a more mature kid couldn't handle. Jill Thompson's illustrations are fantastic, and watercolor is something that is rarely seen in the comic book world.

Starter Comic Book Series for Women

The following 3 series are intended for adults. I've read all three and heartily recommend them for new readers.

Included in this section: Fables, Y: The Last Man, Sandman

Fables: Legends in Exile, Vol. 1
Fables: Legends in Exile, Vol. 1
Fables explores a world where creatures and characters from our beloved fables and fairy tales existed in a real, modern world. It's a must read for those who enjoy fantasy fiction.
Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned
Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned
What would happen if all the men in the world suddenly died, except for one? Y: The Last Man answers this very question. This series is fantastic - it was the first series I read from start to finish.

Neil Gaiman is a well known author in the greater world of fiction; he wrote Coraline, Stardust, and American Gods (which is going to be made into a Starz TV Series). Gaiman is a genius writer with a knack for creating wonderous, complex worlds. If you're a writer yourself (or aspire to be one), Neil Gaiman is a great comic creator to start with.

The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (New Edition)
The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (New Edition)
Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series is an undeniable classic. I recommend it wholeheartedly for anyone who wants to dip their toe in the comic book water; it's a must read for fantasy and/or science fiction lovers. It's also a darnn good story, regardless of genre. I finished the original run awhile back, but it's such a rich read that I'm almost certainly going to read it again.
The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1
The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1
The Absolute Sandman volumes is the Sandman collection that Neil Gaiman himself recommends.* They are hardcover, oversized, come with a bunch of extras, and span 3 volumes (pictured is Volume 1). After Absolute Sandman, Gaiman recommends the Slipcase Set (a set of all 10 trade paperbacks) or the Sandman "Omnibus" volumes (an "Omnibus" is essential a big fat collection of trade paperbacks). Sandman comes in two Omnibus volumes: Volume 1 and 2. *He explained this on his Tumblr ( - if you're on Tumblr and are a fan, what are you doing? Follow him already!

What's a Webcomic?

Think of webcomics as the modern day version of the "funny pages" in the sunday morning newspaper, except much, much better. Web comics either come in the form of a creator's own website, or a website that includes a collection of several comic creators' webcomics. Webcomics sometimes have a larger story arc and/or recurring characters, but they're also released as stand-alone pieces. Just about any genre, subject, and style can be found, but the majority of webcomics are comedic in nature.

Hilarious Illustrators

We live an an amazing age where art and comedy can come together in an incredibly accessible (and incredibly free!) way. Each of the following illustrators has a web comic and/or tumblr page where they post new strips, ridiculous stand-alone pieces, doodles, and whatnot, but their published books tend to offer up a little something more. They're fun coffee table books and make great gifts (I gave Lisa Hanawalt's book to my BFF and she was delighted).

Included in this section: "Hark! A Vagrant" by Kate Beaton, "My Dirty Dumb Eyes" by Lisa Hanawalt, and "The Great Outdoor Fight" by Chris Onstad

Hilarious Illustrators

Hark! A Vagrant
Hark! A Vagrant
Kate Beaton was the first illustrator that I truly loved. My husband has brought me along to many comic conventions, big and small, and I had an opportunity to meet Ms. Beaton about 5 years ago. Of course I got scared and ran away like a little wiener. Hark! A Vagrant is a collection of Kate Beaton's most delightful comics from her hugely popular webcomic series, which focuses primarily on literary and historical figures in hilarious situations. Her illustrations are simple, but effective. Her comics are smart, witty, and endlessly entertaining. Think of them as comic strips, for adults. If I was to give Kate Beaton a rating, I'd say she's PG-13.
My Dirty Dumb Eyes
My Dirty Dumb Eyes
Lisa Hanawalt is funny, crude, and slightly off in a weirdly charming way. Her illustrations in "My Dirty Dumb Eyes" vary from one page stand alone pieces, to illustrated editorials and movie reviews, to more traditional comic stories. Well... they aren't exactly traditional. If farts and crude humor make you laugh till you pee, then Lisa Hanawalt might just be your cup of tea. Keep in mind, she can get very vulgar and explicit - she's not for dainty flower readers. That said, she's probably my favorite person on Twitter right now.

I like to promote my fellow ladies, but as you may have guessed, there are some awesome web comics created by men (gasp!). Achewood is one of them:

The Great Outdoor Fight
The Great Outdoor Fight
Another wildly popular webcomic series turned wildy popular comic collection is Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight. My husband and his buddies are obsessed with Achewood, and Chris Onstad (the creator) is wildly funny. It's not your typical "girl book" because it's not a "girl book"... besides, what does "girl book" mean anyway? It's either good or it's not, and this one is good.

For Budding Comics Creators

My husband helped me pick out the two books that are must haves for anyone interested in making comics, whether it be on the writing side, the illustration side, or both.

Included in this section: "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art" by Scott McCloud and the "Will Eisner Instructional Books" series

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
For many, this is considered the definitive guide to comic books, and to the rest, it's at least a fantastic starting point. "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art" explains the medium in a way that has never been done before, and gives budding comic creators a funny and insightful overview of the world of comics, the art of storytelling, and art and society in general. It has been wildly praised by folks from all industries in and outside the comic book world.
Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist (Will Eisner Instructional Books)
Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist (Will Eisner Instructional Books)
Will Eisner is the grand daddy of comics. You might recognize his name from "The Eisner Awards," aka the Oscars of the comic book world. They have the awards ceremony every year at Comic Con in San Diego. This book is one of a three part series that form a solid foundation for comic creators. "Comics and Sequential Art" focuses on the visual aspect of comics; the other two books, "Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative" and "Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative" focus on the art of the story and telling a story with the physical form, respectively. The three together make a fantastic gift.

© 2013 Shay Marie

What's your take on comics?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • NiaLee profile image


      5 years ago from BIG APPLE

      Hello I read 80% of the books you quoted...I agree they are great reads. I became a definite Graphic Novels fan. Conic books included because all those that are beautiful stories told in drawings and lettering. .. I have been taken with them. I binge on them...great article.

    • shay-marie profile imageAUTHOR

      Shay Marie 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      @Kim Milai: I had Mad magazine in my house growing up too!

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      awesome lens - yes, girls read comics :)

    • profile image

      toshia lm 

      6 years ago

      thank you for sharing

    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 

      6 years ago

      This is great information. I will show this to my new teens (13 years) and find something I'm sure will interest them for the holidays. I am not a graphics comic reader but my one daughter read a graphic novel series from Japan about a girl and dogs? Umiga something? I read Mad Magazine, we used to fight over the issue when it came in the mail.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)