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

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

Starter Books for Future Comic Aficionados

In the interest of full disclosure, my husband is a comic book illustrator. 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. My recommendations fall into these categories:

  • Starter graphic novels suitable for younger girls
  • Graphic novels for women (contains mature themes)
  • Starter comic book series for girls
  • Starter comic book series for women
  • Hilarious illustrators
  • For budding comics creators

Comics Poll!

Starter Comic Books for Female Readers

Starter Comic Books for Female Readers

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 young adult (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.

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.

Graphic Novels for Women (Contains Mature Themes)

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

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.

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

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:

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Read More From Wehavekids

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

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.

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

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:

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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Shay Marie

What's your take on comics?

NiaLee from BIG APPLE on July 28, 2015:

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 (author) from Southern California on November 11, 2013:

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

Melanie Wilcox from Pennsylvania, USA on November 10, 2013:

awesome lens - yes, girls read comics :)

toshia lm on November 05, 2013:

thank you for sharing

Kim Milai on October 31, 2013:

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.

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