The best graphic novels for kids who feel like outcasts

The Books I Picked & Why

The Witch Boy

By Molly Knox Ostertag

Book cover of The Witch Boy

Why this book?

What happens when you are fully confident in who you are, but everyone, including your family, is telling you that’s not the case? When everyone is pressuring you to stop being true to yourself, this book says: Have the strength to refuse. This moving story is one of my favorites on my shelf. You can’t go wrong with any of Molly Ostertag’s stories; the worlds she creates are always enchanting and captivating, and The Witch Boy is no exception.

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Princess Jellyfish, Volume 1

By Akiko Higashimura

Book cover of Princess Jellyfish, Volume 1

Why this book?

This series turns the “tortured outcast” trope on its head: these nerd characters are proud to be outcasts, and the one thing they don't want to be associated with is beautiful, popular people! I love this story because I, too, once fell into the “us vs. them” mentality against people I thought were too cool for me as a youth— people who could have potentially become my best friends! This manga series beautifully celebrates how we are all different, but still might have more in common than we think.

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In Real Life

By Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang

Book cover of In Real Life

Why this book?

The social landscape of the internet is a safe haven for a lot of us who have trouble building relationships in person. As someone who's fostered many friendships over the internet, I’m of the firm belief that internet life is real life. This book acknowledges how very real human lives are intertwined with our online personas, and relationships made through the internet can be just as rewarding (or damaging!) as ones made through “real life.”

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Anya's Ghost

By Vera Brosgol

Book cover of Anya's Ghost

Why this book?

I’m a big fan of kid’s books that acknowledge and respect how dark children’s inner and outer worlds can often be. This book tackles the pressures on kids to act older and more delinquent in order to be cool— pressures like smoking, skipping class, cheating, and bullying. When you’re a kid who’s being hurt by those around you, it’s tempting to hurt others in order to try and raise yourself in the pecking order. I love how this story shows the kinder, more fulfilling world that opens up when you decide to go against the grain and treat others with compassion.

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Blue Flag, Vol. 1

By Kaito

Book cover of Blue Flag, Vol. 1

Why this book?

Blue Flag features an intense love rectangle between four unlikely friends and explores everything from cliques, crushes, self-hatred, projecting your insecurities onto others, and figuring out how to grow as a person. The relationships in Blue Flag are very complex, and almost uncomfortably real in their strengths and shortcomings. This is a series I wish I could have read as a teen; I would have loved it to be my companion in navigating the unnavigable maze of school social life.

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