We all have different reading preferences that come and go with the seasons and no one Summer TBR will look exactly the same as the next. But, in general, come summer lots of us are looking for some quick, smart, entertaining reads that we can throw in a tote bag or a carry on... and nothing fits the bill more than graphic novels.
These visual stories are one of the best things to read during the summer whether you have an entire afternoon to do nothing but delve into a book, are reading in bursts between beach trips or park picnics, or just want something that won't take too much brain power as you contemplate what flavor ice cream cone to treat yourself to after work. Even better, though, is that despite their brevity, graphic novels don't shy away from delving into many different, important, topics and issues like any traditional novel would: family dynamics and friendship; questions of heritage; growing up and making mistakes.
All of the picks below are also set during the summer, a bonus for anyone who loves to pair their TBR picks with the season outside. From YA to adult, each of these graphic novels let's the magic of the summer season guide their characters through the adventures it brings.
1. 'This One Summer' by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
2. 'Summer Blonde' by Adrian Tomine
In this collection of short graphic stories, Tomine constructs urbane tales of self-conflict and emotion. In the title story "Summer Blonde" a socially crippled man nurses an obsessive crush on a young woman. In "Hawaiian Getaway" Hilary, a telephone service rep is having the worst week of her life. She lost her job, her apartment, and her grandmother. She begins to reach out to random strangers on the phone, looking for someone to help her. In "Alter Ego" a successful young author has writer's block. He can't, or won't, decide between another ghostwriting gig and finishing his second ‘real' novel. He stalls on committing to his novel and his girlfriend when a chance postcard leads him to flirt with fantasies of changing the past.
3. 'Roller Girl' by Victoria Jamieson
Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid's life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole... and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.
4. 'Sunny Side Up' by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Sunny Lewin has been packed off to Florida to live with her grandfather for the summer. At first she thought Florida might be fun... it is the home of Disney World, after all. But the place where Gramps lives is no amusement park. It's full of old people. Really old people. Luckily, Sunny isn't the only kid around. She meets Buzz, a boy who is completely obsessed with comic books, and soon they're having adventures of their own: facing off against golfball-eating alligators, runaway cats, and mysteriously disappearing neighbors. But the question remains: why is Sunny down in Florida in the first place? The answer lies in a family secret that won't be secret to Sunny much longer...
5. 'Honor Girl' by Maggie Thrash
Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her 15-year-old life at Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing...until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl. When it seems as if Erin feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.
6. 'Lumberjanes' by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters and Brooke A. Allen
Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together... and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way.
7. 'Will & Whit' by Laura Lee Gulledge
Wilhelmina “Will” Huckstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
8. 'Halfway Home: Drawing My Way Through Japan' by Christine Mari Inzer
The summer before she turned 16, Christine Inzer traveled solo to Tokyo to get reacquainted with her birthplace. Through charming illustrations, photos, and musings, Christine takes us on a journey through modern Japan: she explores the fashion hub of Harajuku; she hunts down geisha in Kyoto; she eats the best sushi of her life in Tsukiji; and she meets many interesting characters along the way.
9. 'Displacement: A Travelogue' by Lucy Knisley
In the next part of her graphic memoirs, Lucy Knisley volunteers to watch over her ailing grandparents on a cruise. In a book that is part graphic memoir, part travelogue, and part family history, Knisley not only tries to connect with her grandparents, but to reconcile their younger and older selves. She is aided in her quest by her grandfather s WWII memoir, which is excerpted. Readers will identify with Knisley's frustration, her fears, her compassion, and her attempts to come to terms with mortality, as she copes with the stress of travel complicated by her grandparents frailty.