The best graphic novels for kids who feel like outcasts

Who am I?

As someone who struggled with connections growing up, I have a big heart for outcasts. When Shane-Michael Vidaurri and I collaborated on All My Friends are Ghosts, we wanted to reach out to kids who may be experiencing the same struggles with loneliness that we faced in our own childhoods. When it feels like the whole world is against you, it’s important to find those alcoves in your life where you feel safe and seen… and books can be exactly that! 


I illustrated...

All My Friends Are Ghosts

By S.M. Vidaurri, Hannah Krieger (illustrator),

Book cover of All My Friends Are Ghosts

What is my book about?

Effie is lost, and feels like a ghost. She skips school because she doesn't think anyone will notice, and doesn't feel like she belongs, or that school offers her anything that she wants. Simply, she has stopped trying. One day, when she realizes no one will notice, she escapes from her everyday life… and discovers a ghost school in the nearby woods. But just as she’s beginning to learn all about the amazing things that ghosts can do – like possession, poltergeist-ing, demon magic, and more – Effie is asked by her new friends to help track down a mysterious spirit that’s been spotted. But if Effie’s going to succeed, she’ll not only have to show her friends that she’s got something special, but also learn to believe she’s got it too.
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The books I picked & why

The Witch Boy

By Molly Knox Ostertag,

Book cover of The Witch Boy

Why did I love 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.

By Molly Knox Ostertag,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Witch Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the illustrator of the web comic Strong Female Protagonist comes a debut middle-grade graphic novel about family, identity, courage -- and magic.

In thirteen-year-old Aster's family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn't shifted . . . and he's still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help -- as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical…


Princess Jellyfish 1

By Akiko Higashimura,

Book cover of Princess Jellyfish 1

Why did I love 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.

By Akiko Higashimura,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Princess Jellyfish 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two very different worlds collide in this hit manga series by Akiko Higashimura! Tsukimi Kurashita has a strange fascination with jellyfish. She's loved them from a young age and has carried that love with her to her new life in the big city of Tokyo. There, she resides in Amamizukan, a safe-haven for girl geeks - the last place she'd expect to meet a fashionable socialite! There's much more to this woman than her trendy clothes, though. Their odd encounter is only the beginning of a new and unexpected path for Tsukimi and her friends.


In Real Life

By Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang (illustrator),

Book cover of In Real Life

Why did I love 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.”

By Cory Doctorow, Jen Wang (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Real Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing. But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer - a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behaviour is strictly…


Anya's Ghost

By Vera Brosgol,

Book cover of Anya's Ghost

Why did I love 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.

By Vera Brosgol,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Anya's Ghost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn't kidding about the "Forever" part . . .

Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who's been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya's normal life might actually be worse. She's embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she's pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend―even a ghost―is just what she needs.

Or so she…


Book cover of Blue Flag, Vol. 1

Why did I love 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.

By Kaito,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Blue Flag, Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An unexpected love quadrangle with a dash of unrequited love as two classmates, a boy and a girl, begin to fall for each other when each of their best friends have already fallen for them.

Love is already hard enough, but it becomes an unnavigable maze for unassuming high school student Taichi Ichinose and his shy classmate Futaba Kuze when they begin to fall for each other after their same-sex best friends have already fallen for them.

For some reason, Taichi Ichinose just can't stand Futaba Kuze. But at the start of his third year in high school, he finds…


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