A Mighty Girl's top picks of girl-empowering graphic novels for teens.
We've already shown how graphic novels for young readers can explore real life issues and take readers on amazing flights of fancy — but, of course, graphic novels are not just for young readers! Graphic novels aimed at teens can tackle even more challenging material, exploring more complex worlds and characters that are more understandable for an older audience.
With that in mind, this blog post showcases graphic novels for teen and adult readers, set in both real-life and fantasy. From exploring the challenges of coming of age for modern teens to tackling difficult social issues such as war, abuse, and addiction, these graphic novels bring greater complexity and depth into the story than titles targeted at younger readers. After all, few things in life are black and white even within a comic strip's panels.
For our full collection of graphic novels for all ages, check out our Top Graphic Novels Starring Mighty Girls.
Mighty Girl Graphic Novels for Teens
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s haunting portrait of race and class, hypocrisy and heroism set in the Deep South of the 1930s, remains of the most beloved and important novels of all time. The story of Scout, Jem, Boo Radley, Atticus Finch, and the small town of Maycomb, Alabama has now been vividly reborn in this beautifully crafted graphic novel. This timeless novel illuminates the complexities of human nature and the depths of the human heart with humor, unwavering honesty, and a tender, nostalgic beauty — its lifetime admirers and new readers alike will be touched by this stunning visual edition.
Kara Danvers has spent years trying to blend in and feel normal — despite her super-strength and her ability to fly. But when an earthquake hits her small town near her 16th birthday, she can't pretend any more. Her superpowers are kicking into high gear, and people she thought she could trust may have ulterior motives. Kara will have to choose between the world where she was born and the world she loves if she's going to save the day. This Supergirl graphic novel, featuring a spectacular partnership between writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Joëlle Jones, collects the limited series Supergirl: Being Super #1-4.
For decades, Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl has inspired the world with its humanity and optimism in the face of the horrors of World War II. Now, this graphic novel adaptation, authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel, provides a fresh look at this enduring classic. Extensive quotations directly from the definitive edition of The Diary are accented by stunning illustrations which add a sense of immediacy and intimacy to this story, which is as relevant today as when it was written.
Nimona is a young shapeshifter who’s eager to turn her remarkable talent into a career as a supervillain’s dastardly sidekick! So when she meets Lord Ballister Blackheart, a sinister man with a vendetta, it seems like the perfect match. Together, they will prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his Institute of Law Enforcement aren’t the noble heroes everyone thinks they are. And, Nimona’s ferocious shapeshifting abilities are just what's needed to tip the scales of this ongoing rivalry! This clever and funny collection of issues from Stevenson’s webcomic — which has been called "a mash-up of medieval culture with modern science and technology" — also includes exclusive material, as well as conceptual sketches.
This first graphic novel in the new Ms. Marvel series introduces Kamala Khan, an ordinary girl from Jersey City who is mysteriously endowed with extraordinary superpowers. Suddenly, the 16 year old who has always adored superheroes -- particularly her idol Ms. Marvel -- finds herself stepping into the famous suit! Finding out how best to wield her new powers will be challenging, however, especially as she tries to balance the expectations of her strict Pakistani immigrant parents. But it takes more than powers to be a hero and Kamala will have to find the confidence to be herself if she’s truly going to come into her own as the new Ms. Marvel. This volume collects the new Ms. Marvel issues 1 to 5; fans of Kamala can follow her continuing story in Ms. Marvel: Generation Why and Ms. Marvel: Crushed.
Iko is an android with a heart of gold, but she's facing a big problem: rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers are threatening the hard-won peace between Earth and Luna. Iko decides that she has to hunt down the wolf-hybrid's leader, but to do so, she'll end up working side-by-side with a royal guardsman — and as their relationship grows, she'll start to question everything she thought she knew about who she really is. Marissa Meyer's first graphic novel continues the story of The Lunar Chronicles and fans will love seeing favorite characters like Cinder, Cress, Scarlet, and Winter make appearances in this thrilling tale. Iko's story continues in Wires and Nerve, Volume 2: Gone Rogue.
This terrific account captures the lives and world of three great primatologists of the 20th century, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas! At a time when women were rarely involved in sciences, particularly fieldwork, these three women — also known as “Leakey’s Angels” or “the Trimates” — not only broke new ground, but also shattered centuries of beliefs about the distinctions between apes and humans. Inviting illustrations and inspiring stories combine to create a volume that’s as much adventure story as it is scientific biography.
When 17-year-old Raven Roth is in a car accident, she loses her foster mom and her memory in an instant. Her foster mother's sister Natalia, who lives in New Orleans, takes her in, and her daughter Max happily befriends the quiet girl. Soon, though, it becomes obvious that Raven is more than she seems: not only can she sense the emotions of her classmates, but sometimes her secret dark thoughts become real. With Max and a new friend, Tommy Torres, at her side, Raven will have to face whatever dark force may have its claws in her... This riveting graphic novel origin story is a tribute to the power of trust, friendship, and facing up to who you are.
Delilah Dirk has been to Japan, Indonesia, France, and even the New World — and she’s always found rollicking adventure! Now, she’s planning a daring robbery, targeting a rich and corrupt Sultan in Constantinople. It’s going to be trickier with Erdemogul Selim, a Turkish Lieutenant who just wants a good cup of tea, by her side, but even slow, steady Selim can’t resist the indomitable Delilah’s thirst for new exploits. Constantinople won’t know what hit it! This colorful graphic novel features a swashbuckling heroine and plenty of action. Fans of the first volume can follow Delilah's story in the sequel, Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling.
Hayao Miyazaki is best known in the West as a visionary filmmaker, founder of Studio Ghibli and creator of Mighty Girl movies like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away, but he began his career in manga comics — and Nausicaa is his masterwork. Nausicaa is the princess of a small country on a future Earth, which has a bioengineered ecological system. War between two larger nations is threatening an ecological disaster, and in the midst of it, Nausicaa discovers a valley full of life. If the Earth is ever going to be green and vibrant again, Nausicaa will have to make the rest of the world see the importance of protecting this precious place. This deluxe boxed set includes the entire manga series, as well as a bonus poster. The first volume of the series was also adapted into Miyazaki’s animated film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
Sixteen-year-old Marigold "Goldie" Vance has big plans! Her divorced father runs a Florida resort, and Goldie is determined that she'll be the one to take over the in-house detective position. Of course, the current detective, Charles, isn't crazy about her idea! But when he runs into a case that he can't crack, he relents and agrees to take her on as a student... if she'll help him solve the mystery. With her father busy managing the resort, and her mother working as a live mermaid in a downtown club, she's got the perfect opportunity to prove she's got the chops of a detective. This exciting mystery adventure will delight would-be detectives! Goldie's story continues in Goldie Vance, Volume 2.
This unique graphic novel collection was created by over 150 women in the comic business — from young girls who create comics at home to top industry professionals; the youngest was 5 and the oldest was 70. Each contributes a short story centered on the theme of heroism. Also included are professional how-to articles, a designated kids/teens section, and a segment devoted to iconic female comic creators of the past. Funded through Kickstarter, this remarkable book was then made available to the general public; profits go to support the charities of Global Giving. If you have a budding young comic writer or illustrator in your home — or love stories starring strong female characters — this one is sure to be a hit. And if she likes this volume, make sure you check out the follow-up, Womanthology: Space.
Captain Carol Danvers, a.k.a Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Hero, is facing an unexpectedly challenging assignment. She was supposed to be returning Rocket Girl to her home world, but she lands in the middle of an uprising — and the man behind the plot has a history with her. When he threatens to blackmail her to turn the Avengers against her, though, it’s time for some payback... with the help of the Guardians of the Galaxy! This volume collects issues 1 to 6 of Kelly Sue DeConnick's Captain Marvel series; fans of the series can find issues 7 - 11 in Captain Marvel: Stay Fly and issues 12 - 15 in Alis Volat Propriis.
Anda loves a massively multiplayer online game called Coarsegold Online, where she can be a fighter and a hero, and meet people from all over the world. Gaming, as far as she is concerned, can only be a good thing, right? Then she meets a gold farmer: a character in the game being played by a poor teen in China, whose only purpose is to collect valuable items and sell them to players in the developed world. It’s against the rules of Coarsegold, but shutting down this player means a real person doesn’t have enough to eat. Suddenly, it seems that right and wrong aren’t as clear as they seem — even in a video game. This sensitive graphic novel, which tackles issues of global economic inequality that few teens have encountered, is sure to make them think twice about their favorite game.
Fans of Raven the pirate from Princeless Book 3: Pirate Princess will love this spin-off! Her brothers have taken the pirate legacy to which she should be the rightful heir, so now Raven is determined to win it back... but to do so, she's going to need the toughest crew around. These awesome ladies may not be your "typical" pirates, but you don't want to come up against them! With plenty of action and adventure and a daring LGBTQ character as its lead, this series gets off to a thrilling start. Fans can check out the second trade paperback in the series, Free Women.
Rue Silver’s mother has disappeared, and her father has been accused of her murder. Meanwhile, Rue is seeing strange things in town — people with animal faces and vines that sprout up over everything at night. It’s not until her extended family appears that Rue learns the truth: she, like her mother, is a faerie, and her father’s broken oath has resulted in her mother being thrown back into the faerie world. If Rue wants to rescue her, she’ll have to dare a journey there herself — one that will also pit her against a dark enemy that threatens more than just her family. This dark and mystical graphic novel handily mixes an urban high school environment with fantastic and mythical realms; the story continues in the sequel, Kith.
200 years ago, the people of Meddlesome defeated the dragons, and everything has been peaceful since... until the day that villagers and their animals start to mysteriously disappear. Then the healer’s daughter, Tansy, discovers dragon’s bane growing in the woods and she realizes what is happening: there is one dragon left and it’s seeking revenge. Tansy knows she must warn the village, but will anyone believe her? And how can she, a herbalist, have the courage and determination to lead her village through this crisis? This whimsical and engrossing story will have readers wondering if the creatures of myth and legend might be lurking out there somewhere.
She was Queen of the Gods in Greek myth, and no god or goddess denied her power! In this volume of the Olympians series, O’Connor tells stories of the heroes who sought Hera’s favor and patronage, including the famous Hercules. By drawing on classical documents, he stays true to the original myths, but the action packed illustrations are a reminder that these stories are not hoary, boring old tales, but full of adventure, romance, destiny, and might. Fans of this volume will also want to check out Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess and Artemis: Wild Goddess of the Hunt.
Paige Turner has just moved to New York and it’s a big change from the quiet town where she used to live! She takes refuge in her sketchbook, trying out different ideas to make sense of her new life, including a burgeoning dream: a life in art. Making new friends and exploring the city take courage, but revealing her secret identity as an artist is terrifying and might also be one of the most rewarding things she’s done yet. Teens with feel for Paige’s struggles with revealing the innermost parts of herself, especially if they too have a dream they fear will be crushed by mentioning its name. At the same time, the light and funny tone reminds readers that everyone can find their place.
The epic Hindu poem The Ramayana has had great influence on Indian culture for centuries, with children urged to emulate Rama and Sita, the main characters. In this graphic retelling of the story, Arni and Chitrakar explore Sita’s perspective, as she is captured and imprisoned by the arrogant king Ravana. Sita steadfastly refuses Ravana’s proposals of marriage, but when Rama frees her, she is shocked to discover he no longer trusts her and that he demands she undergo an ordeal to prove her fealty. This exciting and dramatic telling explores the same themes of right, wrong, loyalty, compassion, and trust as the original story, all with vivid artwork.
Frances is a brilliant dressmaker whose life changes forever when she gets a very unusual commission: Prince Sebastian wants to hire her — to create gorgeous gowns for his alter ego, Lady Crystallia. Working for Crystallia means the chance to create the works of art she's always dreamed of, but a secret weapon has to stay secret, leaving Frances worried she'll never be known for her work. Meanwhile, Sebastian's parents have decided he has to marry, and he's worried what a potential bride with think about his time as Crystallia. How can these two friends find ways to be true to themselves, while also protecting the other? In this story about identity, art, and love that's both poignant and funny, Jen Wang creates a timeless fairy tale graphic novel that will speak to readers young and old.
Maggie grew up homeschooling with her mother and roughhousing with her older brothers and now she’s facing a new adventure: high school. Adapting to the teen world would be hard enough, but she’s also got a mysterious ghost that’s silently followed her for her entirely life. Maggie will have to figure out why the melancholy spirit is so attached to her, and how to interact with these unpredictable peers... and maybe even how to make friends with someone who isn’t in her family. This graphic novel tackles a realistic scenario with a slight fantasy twist for an intriguing and emotional story.
No matter how much people say to speak up, Melinda knows that's a lie: no one wants to hear her story. She called the cops on an end-of-summer party right before she started high school, and now nobody wants anything to do with her. Her art teacher, though, seems to realize Melinda is hurting, and as she works on an art project, Melinda is finally able to face the truth: she was raped by an upperclassman at that party, one who still attends her school. And as she rediscovers her voice, Melinda also rediscovers her own power. This adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson's modern classic Speak is just as gripping as when the story was first published.
Anya is a lonely teen when she discovers an old well in the park — by falling into it. At the bottom, she is shocked to discover the skeleton of Emily, a ghost from 1918 who has been mourning her fiancee’s death and her own murder for decades. For Russian-born Anya, who struggles to fit in, Emily first seems like the perfect friend, always there for her and willing to help her improve herself — and even give her suggestions on talk to the boy she has a crush on. But things start going wrong, and Anya starts to wonder if Emily is really her friend and what she may have accidentally unleashed. This spooky, intense graphic novel beautifully combines mystery with teen insecurity.
Tillie Walden was a talented figure skater, and the rink provided an escape from day to day worries like school, bullies, and family. Every day was the same: practice in the early-morning dark, practice after school. Weekends were filled with competitions, which she regularly won. But as she grew older, discovered a love of art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, Tillie realized that skating was no longer a passion. Instead, it had become a millstone around her neck. This gripping graphic novel memoir about finding your voice — and leaving behind a major part of your old life — will speak to many teens.
Barbara Thorson is a bullied and friendless fifth grader — who sees things that no one else does, including invading giants. She refuses to back down, and tackles every attack with her Norse warhammer in hand. But her real-life foes can’t be defeated with might, and as Barbara begins to open up to a few people, her insistence that she’s battling real giants threatens what she wants more than anything: positive relationships with other people. This graphic novel featuring a likeable but disturbed girl is thought-provoking and shows the tremendous power of fantasy graphic novels to explore issues of the real world.
Ellen Cohen grew up in Baltimore with big dreams: she had an incredible voice, unshakeable confidence, and plans to become a star — no, a superstar. When she left her hometown, she called herself Cass Elliot, and set out to make music history. But at her size, she realized that she would never be the woman record producers wanted on album covers... so with a few unlikely friends, she became Mama Cass of The Mamas and The Papas. The band was short-lived, but their music became the sound of the 1960s. This graphic biography of Cass Elliot captures her bigger-than-life personality and her struggle to maintain her sense of self as she fought her way to the fame she dreamed of.
Marjane is growing up with a large and loving family in Tehran, Iran. But when the Islamic Revolution begins, she has two very different lives — one in private and one in public — something that’s especially difficult for a young person already struggling with identity. Her family sends her to a high school in Vienna, which leaves her to come of age in a new culture that’s suspicious of her nationality and makes her eventual homecoming a struggle. This stunning graphic novel captures a story that’s simultaneously beyond the imagination of many teens today and, at the same time, surprisingly familiar, full of universal trials and joys of growing up. Readers intrigued by this graphic novel can also check out the animated film.
Zeina was born in the midst of Lebanon’s civil war; the conflict is all that she’s ever known. Beirut is divided in two, with one side for Christians and the other side for Muslims, and sandbags and snipers separating them. But one day Zeina’s parents don’t return from a visit to the opposite side of the city, and the bombing gets louder — and closer. Fortunately, neighbors from their apartment create a world of gossip, games, and cooking, hoping to make this dangerous night feel a little safer. This real-life story takes place over a single day, creating a sense of immediacy, but what stands out the most is the powerful message about the strength of community. For another look at Abirached’s childhood in Lebanon, check out I Remember Beirut.
Maggie Thrash has always loved her summers at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, and she's secretly always hoped she'd be named Honor Girl, the girl who most exemplifies the camp's spirit. But the summer she is fifteen, things are different. A chance contact between Maggie and Erin, one of the counselors, sets off unexpected feelings for Maggie — and Camp Bellflower is not the place for a girl to fall in love with another girl. On top of that, her proficiency at the rifle range is setting her at odds with one of the other campers. In this graphic memoir, Maggie will learn a lot about her self at camp this summer... including the power of creating your own identity.
Both past and present, if you're a girl who dares to go against the world, you have to be a little brazen! Celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of 33 women from a variety of social, ethnic, cultural, and historical backgrounds, always with a sense of wit and humor that will draw readers into their stories and leave them eager to learn more. Sometimes infuriating but always inspiring, the stories of the obstacles these women overcame will inspire the next generation to become a little brazen themselves.
Every summer, Rose looks forward to time at the cottage in Awago Beach, and her summer friend, Wendy, who is like the little sister she never had. But this year is different: Rose’s parents won’t stop fighting, about something that happened last year — something they’ve never explained to Rose, but that has sent her mother into a spiral of depression and anger. And when one of the local teens finds herself in a terrible situation of her own, Rose and Wendy realize how lucky they each are to have one person they know they can always depend on. This story is a true slice of life, combining the ordinary details of a summer vacation with the difficult process of a family dealing with loss.
Helen Potter is an abused runaway who tells her story in the format of a Beatrix Potter tale: “Once upon a time, there was a very bad rat...” After fleeing a nightmare of sexual abuse by her father, Helen ends up panhandling and homeless in 1990s London. Her overactive imagination provides her with escape, but also fearful visions of terrible things, like ways she could end her life — after all, she must surely be a very bad rat to have suffered such viciousness. But as Helen journeys through London and into the British countryside, she finds hope in the parallels that she finds between her own life and her favorite author’s. Perhaps even a bad rat can have a happy ending... Heartbreaking and soulful, this graphic novel tackles issues of abuse and recovery in an unflinching but compassionate way.
- For our full collection of graphic novels for all ages, check out our Top Graphic Novels Starring Mighty Girls.
- If your Mighty Girl wants to create graphic novels of her own, check out our blog Fantastic Adventures and Amazing Tales: Encouraging Creative Writing and Storytelling to help her develop her writing, and the supplies in our Drawing / Painting section so she can practice her artwork.