Graphic novels for teens and young adults in KS3 and KS4: this list of books for children aged 12-16 in secondary school years 7-11 contains recommended graphic novels to appeal to all reading abilities. Graphic novels can appeal to reluctant readers and able readers alike and are also an accessible way to approach more challenging reading themes and ideas. This list of reading suggestions is revised regularly and includes stories by Tony Medina, Stephen Collins, Terri Libenson, Raina Telgemeier, Meg-John Barker and Neil Gaiman.
Our recommended graphic novels for teens and young adults aged 12-16
Fence by C.S. Pacat
This is the first in a series of 12 action-packed graphic novels that features Nicholas Cox, who is determined to be the big new star of the fencing world. That’s until he comes up against his sword-wielding nemesis Seiji and his own half-brother who can seemingly do no wrong. A compelling read.
Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughan
The first of a series of three. Set in Halloween, 1984, this coming of age series focusses on four girls who uncover a mysterious and earth-shattering secret. Very popular with reluctant readers and teens who enjoy Stranger Things.
I am Alfonso Jones by Alfonso Jones
A distinctive and clever graphic novel told from beyond the dead by Alfonso who is mistakenly shot by a police officer. Ideal for reluctant readers who are interested in urban stories, hip-hop and a fight for justice.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins
A quirky, clever and often laugh out loud funny graphic story about Dave – who is totally bald – and who lives on an island where everyone is clean-shaven. One day, however, Dave starts sprouting a monstrous beard that won’t stop growing… One for all the pogonophobes out there.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
A classic graphic novel which is ideal for KS3 readers. When Coraline moves to a new home, she realises that her flat is very different from the other flat in the building. When she steps through the door she finds another flat, another set of parents and they don’t want her to leave… Creepy and imaginative with dark and atmospheric illustrations.
Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson
Set in a middle school, friendships between tweens and teens are riven with real-life embarrassments, hilarious moments and drama. Fast-paced and very accessible.
The Recruit: The Graphic Novel by Robert Muchamore
A graphic novel adaptation of the Robert Muchamore novel “The Recruit” which is very popular amongst KS3 pupils. A gripping page-turner with edgy characters and settings. Ideal for the most reluctant reader.
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
When Maya’s family moves to the warmer climate in Northern California to help her cystic fibrosis, she and her sister are keen to explore their new home. She never expected to find ghosts living there. And she never expected them to be friendly. Warm and touching, and ideal for lower abilty readers.
Noughts & Crosses Graphic Novel by Malorie Blackman
A sharply written story about Callum and Sephy who are born into opposite ends of society – one inferior and repressed, and the other elevated and bestowed with power. This graphic novel adaptation is ideal to help teenagers access the story, which is perfect for KS3 book clubs.
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is a startling and memorable adaptation of the award winning YA novel. Something happened to Melinda, something she refuses to talk about. No-one wants to talk to her and no-one wants to listen. Only through art can she begin to express the horrors she has experienced. A must read for Y10 and Y11 and a key resource for teaching and discussing consent in PSHE.
The Complete MAUS by Art Spiegelman
An important and Pulitzer prize winning graphic novel. Maus presents Vladek – a holocaust survivor and his son who depicts his story through art. The visceral illustrations use mice and cats to show the horrors of Vladek’s experiences through metaphor and imagery. Disturbing yet accessible, this book will leave a jarring and lasting impression on the reader. An interesting counterpoint to Animal Farm for book discussion groups.
The Count of Monte Cristo: Manga Classics by Alexandre Dumas
The classic tale of wrongful arrest, imprisonment and intricate relentless and immaculate revenge – all retold in manga. Great for reluctant teen readers and a perfect graphic novel for teen libraries.
Gods of Asgard: A graphic novel by Erik A Evensen
Acclaimed illustrator Erik Evensen draws the legendary tales of Thor, Odin, Loki and the world of Valhalla and Asgard. With stunning artwork on every page, this retelling remains true to the mythology and does not dumb down the detail or character nuances in any way.
Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker
A historical synthesis of LGBTQ+ identity, politics, culture and societal tolerance. Presented with short bursts of text, facts boxes, infographics and cartoons this is a detailed text which is both accessible and visually engaging. A book which opens minds and invites critical questioning of perceived norms. Recommended for KS4 libraries.
1602 by Neil Gaiman
Marvel superheroes and villains travel to a richly imagined, dark and witch-infested Elizabethan England. This unlikely genre mash-up is visually compelling and a good starting point to interest young adults in the world of Neil Gaiman graphic novels.
Primates by Jim Ottaviani
A graphic nonfiction biographical history of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas – all pioneering primatologists who not only expanded our knowledge of wild apes, but also how their behaviour relates to humans.
The Imitation Game (Graphic Novel) by Jim Ottaviani
A moving biographical graphic history of Alan Turning, the English mathematician who cracked the Nazi Enigma code in the 1940s and arguably created the building blocks for computer science and AI. Celebrated after his death, during his lifetime he was arrested, convicted and shunned by society for loving a man. A ground-breaking and emotive graphic novel.
The Giver (Graphic Novel) by Lois Lowry
A sparkling adaptation of Lois Lowry’s award-winning YA novel. A great way for less able readers to access this text, which closely follows the original story. The stark and metaphorical illustrations lend themselves to art project ideas on themes of colour contrast and light and shade.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
A time shift futuristic graphic story which chronicles the life of Mia – who lives in space and fixes broken buildings in far flung edges of the galaxy. An intense love story is revealed, piece by piece, through her life story. A good book to discuss regarding themes of gender and diversity.
Trinity by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
This powerful non-fiction graphic novel tells the story of the atomic bomb from inception to construction to execution. Not only a historical text, this book poses challenging philosophical questions for teens which are ideal for book club and PSHE discussion
Berlin by Jason Lutes
A unique graphic novel told with an impassionate distance through the eyes of a city, and how it has been affected by its inhabitants. Spanning a period from prior to the fall of the Weimar to WW2 and beyond, the intricate drawings reveal the futility of demagogue ideology, extremism and war. An ideal counterpoint to Heimat.
Heimat: A German Family Album by Nora Krug
An important graphic novel which challenges perceptions. Nora Krug tells how she grew up a second-generation German after WW2 knowing little of where she came from. This graphic diary contains notes, clippings and entries that chart her journey of discovery, uncovering the lives of family relatives who lived under the Nazis, and how she felt about researching her cultural origins. Moving and provocative – this book is ideal for discussion and book groups.
Apollo by Matt Fitch
A gripping account of the moon landing in 1969 with insight and input from astronaut Michael Collins. Vibrant illustrations will appeal to pupils in KS3 upwards who are interested in science and exploration..
Kindred: A Graphic Novel by Octavia Butler
A richly illustrated and at times disturbing adaptation of Octavia Butler’s dystopian science fiction story in which Dana, a black women living in 1970s California finds herself moving between her world and a parallel life as a slave in a pre civil war southern state in which she meets her ancestors and is forced into situations which might affect her future existence. With more mature themes, this would be an interesting graphic novel for teens to read alongside To Kill a Mockingbird or 12 Years a Slave.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Satrapi is confident, brash, clever, left-wing-liberal and the great granddaughter of the last emperor of Iran. And, after years of exile and hiding, she wants to return. A cleverly told and compelling story told with wit and verve, this is a must-read graphic novel for teens. Good for discussing cultural differences and diversity.
Daytripper TP by Luke Pearson
The first of a series of six, this is a visually stunning and unique story which uses innovative timeshifts to tell the story of Bras – an aspiring writer – at various points in his life. Useful to read and discuss with reluctant writers, and a good starting point for looking at creating interesting narrative structures.
Blankets by Craig Thompson
A multilayered tale of growing up in the harsh and rural Midwest United States, this story is a beautifully written and touching love story. A modern classic graphic novel which is ideal for book clubs and discussion.
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Anya desperately wants a BFF, but she gets more than she bargained for when her new friend has already been dead for 100 years. Told with a sharp clarity and blunt tone which will appeal to teens, this story addresses body image, peer pressure and dealing with life at school.
Feynman by Jim Ottaviani
Richard Feynman, the world-renowned physicist is chronicled in this thorough graphic non-fiction biography. Notable for his clarity, ability to explain complex ideas in a fun and captivating way, and for myth-busting the Challenger investigation, this is an accessible and riveting read. It’s also useful to spark an interest in Feynmen’s science lectures, many of which are available on YouTube. A thought-provoking graphic novel for teens.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
A collection of five imaginative but scary stories which will linger like an uninvited earworm. “Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…” Compelling and dark illustrations.
March Trilogy by Andrew Aydin
An inside view into the Civil Rights Movement, told by Congressman John Lewis who both lived through it and was pivotal in shaping it. Historical, moving and poignant, this is a book teenagers who are interested in non-violent protests should be encouraged to read.
Mezolith by Ben Haggarty
The first of a series, this groundbreaking coming of age graphic novel depicts Polka – a young teen living in Stone Age Britain. Danger, stark reality and survival is interwoven with nightmare, tribal magic and beasts of legend. A graphic novel which older teens will read and reread.
NIMONA by Noelle Stevenson
A funny and satirical graphic novel about Nimona, a naughty shapeshifter with hidden powers and Lord Ballister Blackheart, a supervillain bent on revenge. Can they both debunk the puffery of Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin who isn’t quite the perfect hero he claims to be?
Heartstopper by Alice Osman
When 14 year old Charlie sits next to Nick in class, it’s love at first sight. For Charlie, that is. He’s not so sure about Nick and convinces himself it’s never going to happen. Nick however is affected by Charlie in ways he could never have imagined. Presented in comic format, this novel is very accessible and easy to read. A heart-warming story and the first of a series of three.
Habibi by Craig Thompson
A harrowing graphic novel version of the middle eastern folk tale set in the birthplace of two diverging world religions. There are some mature themes in this tale of love, betrayal and against the odds quest.
Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy by Steven Nadler
A satirical look at how creative and original thinkers were treated by the establishment in the seventeenth century. Demonstrating the courage and bravery of the pioneers of the enlightenment, this book also hints at how those who challenge authority today are still stamped upon by obtuse power-mongers who are stubbornly resistant to positive change. A must read for anyone who aspires to do good.
Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis
A graphic biography of the philosopher Betrand Russel, revealing a drive for knowledge and reason derived from growing up without his parents. His foundations of logic are interwoven with key moments and struggles in his personal life in this riveting and unique comic strip graphic novel for teens. Ideal for young adults interested in mathematicians, logic and rational argument.
For easier reads, try our graphic novels for children aged 7-11 in KS2.
We also have a list of graphic novel versions of English literature GCSE texts.
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