Hi everyone! I hope you’re keeping safe and that April is treating you well so far! Recently I’ve found myself reading quite a few graphic novels, which is a format that I don’t read an awful lot of but I’ve really been enjoying! A lot of the time when I see queer graphic novels being talked about it’s the same few over and over – Heartstopper, Mooncakes, The Prince and The Dressmaker, and Fence – and all for good reason because they’re all wonderful graphic novels. However, I wanted to highlight some of the less ‘popular’ queer graphic novels and manga that I’ve been reading recently because they’re too good to pass up!
Starting off is my first ever manga, which I ended up loving straight away! This manga is pretty much what it says on the tin – it’s an autobiography of the author’s life as she deals with depression, the expectations of her family, struggling to find a job and, obviously, her lesbianism. This is definitely not the most light-hearted of reads, but it’s not all doom and gloom either. It deals with some heavier topics such as self harm (which is why I recommend checking out the trigger warnings before picking it up), but it is also full of hope, as the author finds a way to follow her passions, and hires an escort for the first time. The art style is very doodle-y but has a colour palette that fans of Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me are sure to love! This book really got me interested in picking up more manga, and I particularly can’t wait to read the author’s other books, My Solo Exchange Diary and My Alcoholic Escape from Reality!
This next graphic novel is one that really took me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it! It’s a really unique read as it takes modern poetry from people of marginalised genders and displays them in a graphic novel format. Embodied is all about the authors’ relationships with their bodies and their lived experiences therein. As someone who’s not really a huge poetry reader, I was so intrigued by this graphic novel, and I think that it’s a great way to open up the world of poetry to those who might feel overwhelmed or intimidated by it. There are 23 poems in this collection that tackle subjects such as birth and miscarriage, and sexual assault – so again, another one that I recommend researching a little before diving in! I absolutely loved the art in this graphic novel but at times layout made it a tad bit more difficult to fully grasp the meaning of some of the poems. As a white person who has not experienced a lot of what these poets have been through, a lot of these poems did not resonate with me, but I know that they will mean so much to other readers, and so I highly recommend giving this one a go when it releases next month!
Cheer Up: Love and Pom-Poms is a graphic novel that has been receiving glowing reviews from those who have received advanced copies, and for very good reason! This is a heartfelt story following BeeBee, a Latina trans girl who is captain of the cheerleading team, and Annie, a fat lesbian who is academically excelling but needs to add extracurriculars to her college application. The pair used to be close friends but drifted apart, but after Annie is convinced to try out for the cheerleading team, the two quickly become close again! I adored this graphic novel! The representation in this book was fantastic, and as a fat person myself who has played competitive sport for around 13 years and is still fat, I loved that the fat character remained fat while still doing some pretty intense sport! I loved seeing BeeBee and Annie’s relationship grow and I adored the friendships, too (oh, and it also made me cry)! There are some tough topics tackled in here too, such as transphobia and fatphobia, so do be aware of that, but otherwise I think that this is perfect for those who loved Heartstopper and Fence!
Next is my second foray into manga – Boys Run the Riot, Vol. 1 by Keito Gaku. I was really intrigued by the fact that this manga has own-voices trans rep so, of course, I had to request an ARC copy! This follows trans teen Ryuu who can’t tell his secret to anyone – not his mum who is increasingly frustrated at him wearing ‘boy’s clothes’, and not his best friend who he secretly has a crush on. The only way he feels truly himself is when he’s wearing his favourite clothes. But one day while out shopping he reaches for a t-shirt at the same time as Jin – the new guy in his class who seems like a bully. But Jin proposes starting a clothing brand alongside Ryuu, to help people finally feel comfortable in their own skin. The own voices trans rep was really great to see (as well as a side genderqueer character that is introduced at the end) and though some little bits irked me a tad (particularly when Ryuu comes out to Jin), I know that this does stem from the author’s own experiences so it’s not a huge issue! The friendships in this were definitely the highlight, and I loved the ‘misfits finally taking control of their lives and coming together to do something they love’ vibes of the book! This was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it as a kind of ‘getting into manga’ read, and I can’t wait for volume 2 to be released!
This next graphic novel is definitely not my usual read, but is one that I actually ended up really enjoying! Lonely Receiver is (as far as I’m aware) a stand alone, sapphic sci-fi horror graphic novel that follows Catrin who is extremely lonely and so buys an Artificial Intelligence partner who is specially made just for her and who is meant to bond for life with her. But after ten years, her AI wife has had enough and disappears without warning. The breakup sends Catrin into a downward spiral as she tries to figure out life without her wife, and also tries to find her again. I am not someone who reads a lot of sci-fi or a lot of horror, so I was a bit anxious about picking this book up, but I needn’t have been as the sci-fi elements were not over-complex and were well explained, and the horror aspect only really comes into play in the second half of the graphic novel, and it wasn’t overly gory which was nice. I really enjoyed the way that the author uses these two genres to showcase the horrors (pun intended) of toxic and abusive relationships, co-dependency and our relationship with technology, and the art style and colour palette really added to the story. This was a really unnerving and intriguing read, and I really enjoyed the world that the author created. I do feel like maybe I’m not clever enough to fully understand the ending, but I’m okay with that! I highly recommend giving this graphic novel a go!
The final graphic novel in this post is, admittedly, a bit more well known than some of the others, but I do really want more people to pick this one up because it has my whole heart! On a Sunbeam follows Mia who is the newest member of a team who travels space, fixing old monuments and buildings. As Mia is getting to know her new team, we also get flashbacks to her time at school, when she fell in love with her friend, Grace. I’m going to start off this mini-review by saying that there were times when I was reading this graphic novel that I started crying so much that I couldn’t read the pages! There is the most precious found family in this book and I adored every single character so so much! The sapphic romance was so bittersweet and one that I will forever treasure! Tillie Walden’s art style is one of my absolute favourites and the illustrations were absolutely gorgeous! I also want to point out that I think there was maybe one man in this whole entire graphic novel, which is stunning! I also really adored the sci-fi universe that Tillie Walden came up with, and this graphic novel will forever be deep-rooted in my heart! (Also, please pick this up so there’s a higher chance of a sequel!!).
That’s all for today’s post! I hope these mini-reviews convince you to add some of these books to your TBR and maybe try something a little bit outside of your comfort zone! As always, stay safe!