Originally published in French as Le bleu est une couleur chaude, Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.
Vividly illustrated and beautifully told, Blue Is the Warmest Color is a brilliant, bittersweet, full-color graphic novel about the elusive, reckless magic of love. It is a lesbian love story that crackles with the energy of youth, rebellion, and desire.
First published in French by Glenat, the book has won several awards, including the Audience Prize at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, Europe's largest.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR was recommended to me by an instructor as a masterwork of sequential art, so when I picked it up, I had high expectations. It's also won several awards and been made into a movie, which is rare for non-cape graphic novels.
It's a lesbian coming-of-age story that starts and ends with pain, but the romance is beautiful and immensely moving. I was reminded of the work queer communities have done to get us to this place of openness. Yes, there's much work to be done, particularly with and for the trans community and for PoC in queer spaces. But to be taken back to the not-so-distant past as we follow Clementine through her journey of self-awareness and self-acceptance in the 90's? Oof. Spoiler: Clem's parents kick her out at age 17 when they find out her best friend is really her lover. I know that still happens today, but maybe a little less frequently? I can't speak to gay culture in France today, but in the US it's improved.
This is one of those stories in which one of the queer protagonists dies, but it's not because she's queer. This isn't a spoiler - the book opens with Emma visiting Clem's estranged parents following the funeral for Clem. Most of the narrative is told as written in Clem's handwritten journal, giving Emma and the reader a look at Clem's emotional journey. I was weeping at the end of the book, but I'm not sorry to have read it. It's not going to give you the feeling of Brokeback Mountain or other stories that mine gay pain for emotional power.
As for the art, Julie Maroh makes interesting and successful choices throughout. The only pop of color in the book is blue. Several pages have no written dialogue, giving facial expressions and action more weight. Maroh gives readers close-ups of Clem's smile after her first positive sexual interaction. We can feel the joy with her, just as we later feel her intense sadness. Emma is best depicted in the opening and closing scenes of the book, after Clem has passed on. Only then is Emma given the freedom to have her own story told, which makes sense considering that the entire middle is from Clem's POV.
TL;DR - this is an excellent book. I'm glad I read it. It's not a traditional romance, since there isn't a Happily Ever After, but considering that the two protagonists have a solid 13 happy years together? I'm willing to bend my definition.
DESTINY, NY is a 120-page graphic novel about love, loss, magic, cats, coffee, sex, growing up, and the way we build our own destinies every day.
This is going to be a bit of a Squee - you have been warned.
I first heard of DESTINY, NY when I was scrolling through Kickstarter and decided to back Vol. 2. Magical girls in love? Sign. Me. Up.
Fast forward a bit, and I've got a digital copy of DESTINY, NY (Vol. 1) waiting for me on the iPad. I had a terrible day yesterday. Not going to get into specifics, but trust me, I needed a pick-me-up.
Turns out, DESTINY, NY was just the thing! The original GN is 160 black & white pages, with two different art styles - one for present and one for flashbacks. I loved both styles, and really dug the blurred, surreal feel of the flashbacks, particularly the magical aspects.
Magic, you say? The main characters are both part of a group of young people identified by seers as having a "destiny." They go to a special school to learn about their destinies and prepare them for the challenges to come. After they've completed their destiny, the school provides them with the training they need to re-enter society at large and get on with their lives. Logan, the main heroine, fulfilled her destiny when was just thirteen years old, which has made the last decade of her life rather... unfulfilling. She's lost the love of her life, she's working as a barista, and she's pretty unhappy. Then she meets Lilith, our second heroine, and her life tips upside down.
First things first: this story is definitely a romance. Lilith and Logan have a pretty great meet-cute, followed by a hot and tumultuous relationship. The ending is somewhat ambiguous, but I choose to believe their Happy-For-Now will be a Happily-Ever-After. (Volume 2 explores this, but I don't have my hands on it yet.)
No matter how much I liked Logan and Lilith, the secondary characters really steal the show here. Gia, a fat girl with a scary destiny, is really well done. I loved that her size isn't "a thing," and that she was unapologetically into sex and love and friendship. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to see characters who don't fit the the "ideal" living full lives.
My biggest (only?) criticism is that the "big bad" felt undeveloped. She's evil from the time she's a little kid, which doesn't tell me much about her motivations. She is definitely awful, however, and it's quite satisfying to see her get her due.
Tl;DR - I loved DESTINY, NY and can't wait for Volume 2. The first volume proved to be exactly what I needed at the end of a rotten day, and I hope it gives you the same feels. Rated R for nudity, sexual situations, violence, language.
Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s Spinning is a powerful graphic memoir that captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.
It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.
Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.
She was good. She won. And she hated it.
For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. Skating was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion—and she finally needed to find her own voice.
With a whopping 400 pages, this book is something of a coming-of-age tome. With a spare, sketchlike style, Tillie Walden tells the story of her life as an ice skating child and teen.
Chapters are named after skating moves, a short description of the action mirroring the events of the story. Through skating, we see Tillie's yearning for acceptance and love: from other girls, from her coaches, from her family, from herself. Walden doesn't shy away from showing us her first love, her bouts of depression, and an assault by her SAT tutor. She lets readers feel the fear, heartbreak, and relief that she experiences while coming out as a teen.
While I spent about half of the book wondering "why the hell is she still skating if it makes her this miserable," Walden does answer that question. The "why" is inextricably tied in with Tillie's own struggle with self-acceptance and her need for approval. Even when she's being bullied at school, at the rink, at home, she still tries to put on a smile and do what is expected of her. This pushes her through skating, through middle school, through concealing her first relationship.
This is not a book for answers, however. Tillie's not perfect and doesn't pretend to be. She acknowledges that she might have saved everyone a lot of trouble by quitting skating earlier, and that she relied on one of her skating friends for a lot of support and friendship that she never really reciprocated. Rather than providing answers, this memoir offers readers a chance to consider the sacrifices we make for the things we could leave behind, and the confusing freedom that comes from breaking with routine and stepping into the unknown.
Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:
Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!
Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.
Tunes of Lycka is a webcomic about the 14yo girl Lycka forming a band with her friends and her older cousin. There’s adventure, drama, a little bit of romance - and it is all revolved around our relationship to music.