What's Up in YA

2020 YA Graphic Memoirs

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s take a gander at some of the amazing YA graphic memoirs we’ll be seeing on shelves next year. If this is a new trend — not just memoirs for teen readers, but graphic memoirs for those readers — we’re in for a real treat over the next few years.

I’ve got a couple of these on my to-read, but unfortunately, haven’t read them yet. I’m borrowing Amazon descriptions for that reason, but have included a little commentary with each.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha (January 28)

For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated.

Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends in Seoul and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily, and worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of this title and Ha’s work in general. It’s definitely going to be one I pick up sooner, rather than later. 


Dancing At The Pity Party by Tyler Feder (April 14)

Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging.

From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing–but also often funny–details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.

Chances are you’ve seen some of Feder’s art around the internet. She had a beautiful piece in my own anthology Here We Are: Feminism For The Real World, and I cannot wait to dive into her memoir. Reviews say this is one that’ll make you cry in public. 

Displacement by Kiku Hughes (August 4)

Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II.

These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself “stuck” back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class. She witnesses the lives of Japanese-Americans who were denied their civil liberties and suffered greatly, but managed to cultivate community and commit acts of resistance in order to survive.

Kiku Hughes weaves a riveting, bittersweet tale that highlights the intergenerational impact and power of memory.

This isn’t technically a graphic memoir, as it’s fiction. But, it’s based on reality — and the main character is loosely based on the author. It sounds fascinating. 

The Fire Never Goes Out by Noelle Stevenson (March 3)

In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world.

Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, Nimona, Noelle captures the little and big moments that make up a real life, with a wit, wisdom, and vulnerability that are all her own.

Readers of YA will be familiar with Stevenson’s work, and her memoir is sure to be a great one.

Thanks for hanging out, and we’ll see you again on Thursday!

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram and editor of (Don’t) Call Me Crazy and Here We Are.