7 Thought-Provoking Graphic Novels for Teens

by Kirsti Granholm

Graphic novels can be read and enjoyed by people of all ages, but some of the best Canadian graphic novels are made for teens and young adults. This book list is dedicated to some of the most fascinating graphic novels to come out within the last few years.


In Real Life written by Cory Doctorow, illustrated by Jen Wang (First Second, 2014) Ages 12 and up.

Anda loves gaming, but not just any kind of gaming! In her game of choice, she can be whoever she wants to be. As a courageous warrior or the hero that saves the day, Anda escapes into another world each time she plays. But her heroism is tested when she meets Raymond, a poor young boy who is collecting coins online to sell to kids in real life. Anda has the best intentions for Raymond and would really love to help him, but her efforts run short when something very unexpected takes place between the two.


Secret Path written by Gord Downie, illustrated by Jeff Lemire (Simon & Schuster Canada, 2016) Ages 12 and up.

Chanie Wenjack was a young boy from Ogoki Post, Ontario. He was taken from his home to attend the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School, 400 miles from home. Chanie was forced to assimilate to white, Christian values and of course, deep down he knew what was happening was wrong. He took it upon himself to escape, to try to get back home, not knowing the distance or direction of the whereabouts of his family. Along his brave journey home, Chanie tragically died on October 22, 1966. This story looks to spread awareness of Chanie’s story, and the many other children effected by residential schools.


Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books, 2008) Ages 12 and up.

Kimberly or “Skim”, the protagonist, is a 16-year-old girl living in Toronto in the 1990s. She attends a girls’ private school in the city, but never feels like she truly fits in. Skim loves all things astrology, philosophy, Wicca and art, which she also creates herself. Not only does she feel confused about figuring out her life as an artist, but Skim is also struggling with coming out. The confusion furthers when she kisses her not-so-typical crush. Alongside Skim’s own personal drama, a suicide takes place and throws her whole school into mourning. This book is a look into the life of a remarkable young girl. Highly recommended!


The Nameless City written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks, colour by Jordie Bellaire (First Second, 2016) Ages 9 and up.

This book is the first of The Nameless City trilogy. In book one, constant battle surrounds the City. Each time they are invaded, a new individual in power tries to rename the city, but everyone who has lived there knows that it will not last long. Kaidu is one of those new individuals and is a son of the nation who has taken over the land. Kaidu does not quite know what he is in for occupying a new land but goes along with his people regardless. On the other hand, Rat has been living in the Nameless City for quite some time. She detests the new occupants and swears to never align with them or their values. Until one day, the two youngsters unexpectedly become friends and an exciting adventure unravels.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (Groundwood Books, 2014) Ages 13 and up.

Another title by the Tamaki cousins made it on this list! This One Summer is another exceptional graphic novel. In this story, Rose and Windy are the best of friends, in the summer season anyways. Both of their families visit Awago beach each year to enjoy the summer by the water. But when the pair get there this summer, things are different. The girls are nearly teenagers now and fully immersed in the typical teenage drama. They find fun in watching the older teens in cottage country and renting scary movies together. But things start to get more interesting when Dunc, the teen from the local store’s girlfriend, Jenny, claims to be pregnant. Soon enough, the parents are in on the drama and their seemingly perfect summers at Awago beach are changed forever.


Through the Woods written and illustrated by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014) Ages 14 and up.

Through the Woods is definitely a notable mention for this list. The illustrations are fabulously creepy and the stories are exceptionally creative but are still reminiscent of the old-school spooky folk tales. Emily Carroll packs this book with five mysterious stories, all equally engaging and fascinating. Carroll also manages to make these short, scary stories quite poetic, which is complimentary to her unique illustrations. She evokes emotion and terror through her colour choices, which set the mood for each story within the book. This text is highly recommended for readers of all ages. Teen or not, you will fall in love with these creepy tales.


Will I See? written by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by
GMB Chomichuk, based on the story by Iskw
é, Erin Leslie (HighWater Press, 2016) Ages 16 and up.

In this book, a girl named May is on her way home and spots a stray cat, which she begins to follow. The cat leads her to a fascinating artifact, she grabs it and continues to follow the cat along. May comes across another trinket, and then another and another. She takes her newfound collection and shows it to her kookum, who strings the artifacts into a necklace. Neither May nor her kookum know what stories lie behind the trinkets, or what kind of power her findings hold. But the reader knows May’s findings belong to Indigenous women and girls who have been kidnapped or killed. When trouble arises in May’s life, she finds strength in the power of her new necklace.


What do you think of this graphic novel list? Do you have any recommendations? Let us know on social media @kidsbookcentre.