The Best Graphic Novels for Middle School of 2021

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

Are you have doubts about graphic novels being literature? Or maybe you are a keen fan of this format? This post will help you in either case. If you aren’t sure how deep graphic novels can be, check out a few reviews below. We are confident that you will change your mind and will decide to pick one of these books. If you already love this format, check out the bestselling middle-grade graphic novels reviewed in this post and also make sure to read the advice on choosing the best graphic novel for you.

If you want to just get back to studying, get our top choice for graphic novels for middle school here.

Our Top Favorite
The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
Our Top Runner Up
El Deafo
Our Top Value Pick
Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School Book 1)
Book Title
Amulet: The Stonekeeper
El Deafo
Awkward
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Favorite
The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
Book Title
Amulet: The Stonekeeper
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Runner Up
El Deafo
Book Title
El Deafo
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School Book 1)
Book Title
Awkward
Prime Eligible?
-

Last update: 2021-05-12

Our Favorites for Best Graphic Novels Middle School

Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

You must read this book if you like stories about magical creatures with elements of spine-chilling horror. This graphic novel for tweens is the first volume in the series Amulet.

Two years after the car accident in which their father died, Emily, Navin, and their mom move to a strange old house. This house had belonged to their deceased great grandfather, and it seems dangerous to the kids. One day their mother is kidnapped by a monster, and Emily and Navin have no choice other than to follow the monster into the underground world and rescue their mother. They find an amulet that may help deal with man-eating demons, giant robots, and many other mysterious creatures. But what if they are wrong and the amulet isn’t working in their interest?

Why Choose this Book:

  • The art part of the novel prevails over the dialogues; you will see how much creativity is used to introduce each character. Some of them look truly evil, some are creepy, and some feel stiff.
  • The colors change depending on a situation; they are warm when the family moves to the house; they get colder when something bad is about to happen.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • You will love their family! The mother understands the children’s feelings and helps them through difficult times. Emily is an excellent big sister who takes responsibility for her brother. She lets Navin help her out in many situations.
  • This fantasy graphic novel is action-packed. At the same time, the pacing is consistent because the author writes about Emily facing adolescence and dealing not only with monsters but also with other issues
On Sale
The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
  • Graphix
  • Hardcover Book
  • Kibuishi, Kazu (Author)

Last update: 2021-05-12


Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson

Looking at the book you may think that it is a graphic novel for younger kids. But it is so not true!

The older you are the more you will relate and understand the depth of the story.

Chunky Rice, a small turtle, and Dandel, a deer mouse, are friends (some readers say that there is more than friendship!). The turtle dreams about a better, more interesting life; it wants to travel to unknown lands and find where it belongs. The deer mouse doesn’t feel like leaving home, and they are preparing for Chunky's journey. Dandel stays positive and supportive even though it doesn’t want to lose the friend. Chunky leaves its friend behind and meets other characters. Dandel is lonely and it throws bottled messages in the ocean hoping that Chunky will find them.

Why Choose this Book:

  • This graphic novel is perfect for family readings or for those who know the feeling of losing someone. It is excellent for discussions about sadness, separation, loss, friendship, missing your loved ones.
  • The illustrations are black and white, but you will see how much can be shown with just two-color sketches. A wonderful detail used that gives lives to the characters is their dialects.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • This is a rare case when the author emotionally connects you to the characters momentarily without extra information and details.
  • This novel with drawn animals will make you cry your heart out, especially if you relate to the characters.
On Sale
Good-bye, Chunky Rice (Pantheon Graphic Library)
  • Pantheon Books
  • Thompson, Craig (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-05-12


Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

This book is a must-read for those who feel like they have to give up their passion and live up to someone’s expectations.

Dennis is a first-generation Chinese-American teenager who loves playing video games. His friends only talk about new game systems, and he isn’t allowed to have one. His parents insist he stays focused in school, goes to college, and then to medical school. Suddenly, his father dies, and nobody controls him that strictly anymore. His father’s death, academic burnout, and video games get Dennis kicked out of college. Four angels appear from a greeting card and take charge of his life. He goes back to college and studies hard. But is it really what he wants? And who are these angels?

Why Choose this Book:

  • Anyone who struggles with expectations of their family, their friends, and their society will find support in this book.
  • The watercolor illustrations are simple, but they work perfectly with the story, especially when it comes to the bossy angels.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • It covers four potentially important topics: pressure to receive higher education, the role of commercial culture in our lives, transition from teenagers to adults, the role of family and society in our career.
  • Even though the book covers a lengthy period, it doesn’t overwhelm you with details. It will change your perception of the father-son relationship and parents’ pressure (even when they only want the best for their kids).
Level Up
  • Yang, Gene Luen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 07/19/2016 (Publication Date) - Square Fish (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-05-12


Runner Ups for Best Graphic Novels Middle School

El Deafo by Cece Bell

This graphic novel is perfect for people who want or need to learn more about lives of people (a middle-schooler in this case) with disabilities and their struggles.

Cece lost her hearing at the age of 4 and now she has to wear a phonic ear device. She used to go to the school with other deaf kids, but now she needs to go to a regular school and make friends with kids that don’t know what it’s like to have a disability. She is sure that everyone is staring at her phonic ear, but one day she discovers the device gives her a superpower. Now she can hear so much more than everyone else, sometimes things that she isn’t supposed to hear. She creates a hero in her mind, El Deafo, Listener for All. Will El Deafo help Cece make friends or will the hero make her feel even more different from others?

Why Choose this Book:

  • Cece has a disability but she is no different from other children in other aspects like being embarrassed by her parents, finding friends, studying. The story will show you how people with disabilities are just the same as you are.
  • The novel explains in kid terms how people are dealing with disabilities, and how they feel when they are treated differently by society.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • This novel is semi-autobiographical, as the author herself is deaf. At the end of the book, she leaves an afterword, explaining more details about her deafness.
  • Even though a disability is no fun, the novel is full of humor and pathos, all the characters are colorful animals which makes the story easier to perceive.
On Sale
El Deafo
  • Harry N Abrams
  • Bell, Cece (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-05-11


Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Even if you don’t like sports, this book is about much more than roller derby. It is a wonderful coming-of-age graphic novel for teenage girls and boys about Astrid who is trying to understand how life works.

Astrid is a 12-year-old girl who can’t imagine her life without Nicole, her best friend. One day Astrid visits a roller derby bout and falls in love with it. She signs up for a derby camp expecting that Nicole will do the same. But Nicole decides to go to a ballet camp. How can Astrid spend the summer without Nicole? Now she has to learn who she is without her best friend. She is bruised not only from roller skating but from losing her friend and going through other middle school problems. But she realizes that she is strong enough to deal with everything to become a roller girl.

Why Choose this Book:

  • You will learn that it’s okay to lose and find friends. You will learn why you don’t have to share every interest with your friends and tell them everything.
  • The book teaches that giving up is not an option when it comes to your passion. Astrid skates for hours to become a roller girl, despite the heat, the bumps and bruises.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • The novel portrays girls and women as highly capable of taking on tough challenges, both physically and intellectually.
  • It carries a powerful message for those who tend to sacrifice themselves to save their friendships and relationships.
On Sale
Roller Girl
  • Dial Books
  • Jamieson, Victoria (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-05-12


Coraline by Neil Gaiman

It’s one of the bestselling middle-grade graphic novels in the horror genre, especially among tween readers in grades 5 to 7.

Coraline and her family move to a new large apartment with one of the doors locked and on the other side blocked by a brick wall. One day when Coraline stays home alone, she manages to unlock the door and finds a way to another apartment which looks exactly like her own and even better. The food tastes better, the box full of toys, and the books are shinier. But there are other parents who want Coraline to stay with them forever. They promise her everything she wants but she decides to go back to her normal life. Only these people won’t let her go! She discovers that there are other children trapped in the strange apartment and they need her help.

Why Choose this Book:

  • It teaches you to appreciate what you have and think about the choices you make.
  • Coraline doesn’t get excited about living in a dream-like world and getting everything she wants. This scene will show you why it is important to not get whatever you want right away.
  • There is a rare for graphic novel section: the Q&A with the author and discussion questions for readers. If you are interested, you can watch a movie that is almost as good as the book.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • The author has written this novel for his daughters, and he says that the main message of it is that bravery is “when you’re scared but still do it anyway.”
  • This novel is very scary, especially for younger children. Coraline often does disgusting and horrifying things because there is no other option.
Coraline
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Gaiman, Neil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-05-12


Value Picks for Best Graphic Novels Middle School

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

It is in fact an awkward graphic novel about middle-schoolers, their fears, pain, embarrassment, and social interaction. It is the first book in the series Berrybrook Middle School.

Penelope, or Peppi, is trying to survive her first day of school. She doesn’t know how to look cool in other’s eyes and decides to act as a bully, pushes poor Jamie and runs away. She spends weeks regretting this decision and trying to figure out how to avoid Jamie. She enrolls in the art club and surrounds herself with new friends. Jamie is in the rival science club and there is no way to avoid Jamie now. Peppi wants to apologize but she feels extremely embarrassed! When the two clubs go to war, she is determined to make things right.

Why Choose this Book:

  • This is excellent for young readers because it shows how significant it is to find courage to apologize and be open to others, even when they seem different from us.
  • If you like manga, you will enjoy this graphic novel as there is minimal use of color and Peppi’s funny expressions.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • All the character, starting from Peppi to background characters, are very diverse, just like people all around us. You will see a good mix of ethnicities, genders, abilities, body types both at school and at home. All the characters, despite their diversity, learn how to work together to achieve a shared goal.
  • At the end of the book, the author provides insight into character development, she describes the steps of creating a graphic novel, and how much hard work is involved in writing each page.
Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School Book 1)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Chmakova, Svetlana (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update: 2021-05-12


Space Boy by Stephen McCranie

Have you ever thought about traveling to another planet? That’s what Amy’s family is going to do. This book is the first volume of Stephen McCranie’s Space Boy Series.

Amy and her family live in deep space but when her father loses his job they have to return back to Earth. She likes her life in space and doesn’t want to leave everything behind, including her best friend Jemmah, but she has no choice. The journey to Earth takes 30 years, and to stay young, the family decides to “put to sleep,” or turn off, their bodies. Amy has never been to Earth and everything looks strange: the gravity is heavier, the sky is different, the people are weird. Amy likes to associate people with different flavors: her mom’s flavor is mint – sharp and bright, her dad’s is hot chocolate – warm and sweet. Oliver, the boy she meets at her new school, is the only person whose flavor she can’t figure out. Who is this boy and is it a good idea to befriend him?

Why Choose this Book:

  • Not only the author shows us our planet through a perspective of a girl who hasn’t been to Earth before, but he also imagines what our world will look like 30 years from now.
  • You will be surprised to see that the actual conflict has nothing to do with all the resources and technologies that can cause trouble.

What Makes this Graphic Novel Unique:

  • If you wonder why the story about a girl is called Space Boy, you will understand it later when you meet Oliver. The first book doesn’t talk about the Space Boy a lot, but if you get hooked, you will find out more in the next volumes.
  • The art style is beautiful and unique with bright colors. The narration boxes have different hues of the same color and set the mood.
On Sale
Stephen McCranie's Space Boy Volume 1
  • McCranie, Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 248 Pages - 07/03/2018 (Publication Date) - Dark Horse Books (Publisher)

Last update: 2021-05-12


All these books cover different topic and before you pick a book, think which topic appeals best to you. Roller Girl and Level Up are both about reaching your goals and following your passion despite what others think and like. Roller Girl will show you that your friends don’t define who you are, that you don’t have to like what they like, and that it is normal to lose a friend who doesn’t support you. Level Up will help you deal with parents’ pressure and meeting their expectations in your career life. If you are interested in action-packed horror books pick Amulet: The Stonekeeper or Coraline. While the first book is more about magic, mysterious creatures and fighting monsters, the second one is more about mystery and parallel reality. If horror doesn’t sound fun, how about books about fitting in at middle school? Awkward and El Deafo are both about finding friends and adjusting to new schools. But El Deafo is not only about dealing with regular middle-graders issues but also about being the only child in class who has a disability. Awkward will show you how your choices affect you and others, how being open to people who are different from you changes your idea of “different.” Space Boy will take you to space first and then show you our planet from the perspective of an “alien.” Good-bye, Chunky Rice may look like one of the graphic novels for 3rd graders and younger. But in fact, you have to be brave enough to read it as it will make you cry your eyes out over the sadness of lost friendship.

How to Choose the Best Graphic Novels Middle School for You

Graphic novels are not a genre of literature, it is a format that an author uses to give more life to characters, make the story more entertaining and easier to perceive. Genres can vary the same as with regular novels; there are biographies, history and sports fiction, horror novels. To choose the best graphic novel for middle-graders use these four steps:

  1. Pick a genre you feel like reading. Just look through the genres and pick one that sounds more interesting. If you watched a movie or heard a story that inspired, you think what genre is that movie or story would most likely we written in.
  2. When picking a book, ask your friends for suggestions if they read graphic novels, look through recommended lists online.
  3. If you find more than one book there is a useful tool to create your own book list. AR book finder is a place where you can look up books, add them to your list and print out or save a PDF of the list. Note that your list will be clear automatically when to close your browser.
  4. Visit your local library and if you have your AR book list take it with you. See if there are books you want to read.

When you look at the book make sure to check the following:

  • Illustrations. They are an essential part of the story. Look through the book and make sure you like them, they are clear, and they support what the characters are talking about.
  • The way text is presented. See if the font style and size is easy to read, where the narration boxes are placed and how they are designed.
  • The words. You want to be familiar with most of the words to enjoy reading the book, not a dictionary instead.
  • Read a free sample or a few pages before you start reading the book. This step is just in case if you want to be sure you like the book before you spend money on it.

Wrapping Things Up: The Best Graphic Novels for Middle School

We’ve gone over a lot today. Here’s a helpful table to consolidate every graphic novel for middle school we looked at today:

Our Top Favorite
The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
Our Top Runner Up
El Deafo
Our Top Value Pick
Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School Book 1)
Book Title
Amulet: The Stonekeeper
El Deafo
Awkward
Prime Eligible?
-
Our Top Favorite
The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
Book Title
Amulet: The Stonekeeper
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Runner Up
El Deafo
Book Title
El Deafo
Prime Eligible?
Our Top Value Pick
Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School Book 1)
Book Title
Awkward
Prime Eligible?
-

Last update: 2021-05-12

If you are not sure what graphic novel to read and how to pick the right one for your, hopefully this post is going to be an excellent source of suggestions and advice. All the novels reviewed are highly recommended by young and adult readers, teachers and parents, and by us. But the main review is your own. It is great if find an interesting graphic novel right away. But if you start reading one and then understand you don’t enjoy it, there is no reason to be upset. Just pick another one instead and keep looking till you find a good book.

If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other best reading book lists here.

Here are a few to help you out:

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

Readers of this post also read...