NetGalley Graphic Novel Picks – August

Growing up, my mother discouraged me from reading comics.

Every month, a friend of our family would take me to a local independent bookstore and I was allowed to choose one book in the store.

I always wanted to get a comic anthology, but invariably would leave with a chapter book at the insistence of my mother, who said that I read graphic novels, manga, and comics “too fast” for them to be worth spending money on.

Now that I am grown, I think this is a strange mindset to have, yet I must actively work against it every time I want to purchase a graphic novel for myself!

Just one more reason I am grateful to my local library and interlibrary loan programs (shout-out to MeLCAT!); I can read as much as I want, of whatever I want, FOR FREE and sans guilt.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have “Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels” as my top requested genre on NetGalley. I enjoy any illustrated story that isn’t about superheroes, and am endlessly fascinated at how comics are used to tell stories. Some might dismiss the medium as kids stuff but authors are able to tackle heavy themes in these books.

This month I read “Hungry Ghost” by Victoria Ying, which tackles disordered eating, as well as the death of a parent. I was drawn to this book because of the cover and title, but stayed for the description. This delicately illustrated graphic novel centers on high-schooler Valerie Chun and her disordered eating. Valerie strives to be obedient and a good daughter, however, her mother often exhibits abusive behavior towards Valerie and has a particularly toxic relationship with food. It is inferred that this is what has led to Valerie’s eating disorder.

The book deals with disordered eating graphically and head-on, it is very real, and could potentially be triggering for those still in or recently in recovery. This is a heavy book and while I enjoyed it, it’s unlikely I would read it again in the near future. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys graphic novels or manga that deals with mental health and dysfunctional family dynamics.

I’m also a big fan of anthologies, and jumped at the opportunity to review “Sensory: Life on the Spectrum”, an OwnVoices anthology of short comics by autistic people. Topics range from the journey of being diagnosed, formal vs. self-diagnosis (and how both are valid, and why!), masking, burnout, and so much more.

Many of the comics in this anthology began online as #ActuallyAutistic people began sharing their stories online. These types of Own Voices stories are so important because they come directly from the communities whose narratives are being told, so I am very happy that the online work came to the page in the form of a book as well.

I didn’t love every single art style deployed, however, I did find something insightful and valuable from each of the works. Most of the comics are short, one or two pages, which makes this a quick read. I recommend this for all school libraries, as well as anyone who wants to learn more about autism.

My final recommendation from my galley selection this month is “Everything is OK” by Debbie Tung, a story about mental health, and learning to treat oneself with compassion.

Although the subject matter is heavy, I didn’t think this was a sad book. The author is honest about her struggles dealing with anxiety and depression, but also expresses hope for her life once she is finally able to seek help. The art style is simple but effective, and fits the tone of the story.

I enjoyed this book as I could deeply relate to the story being told. My only complaint is that it is perhaps TOO relatable. The conflicts in the book, such as social anxiety and work pressures, will feel familiar to readers of a certain age. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys “slice of life’ comics and graphic novels, but especially Millennials.

What comics or graphic novels have you read lately? If you’re a NetGalley reviewer, what genre is your most requested? Let me know in the comments!

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