Celine Cooper, Nederland. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an avid reader. Throughout my childhood and into my teen and adult life, I have had at least 2-3 books that I alternate between to keep me entertained.
However, about a year or so ago, I found myself in a dark place that I didn’t even know existed: a reading rut.
Reading ruts happen when, after several failed attempts at reading good, highly recommended books (sometimes even by your favorite author!), you suddenly lose interest and opt for Netflix instead of chapters. At first, I didn’t understand what was happening – am I not a reader anymore? Do books not spark my interest like they used to? What if I never finish a book again!?
It was around that time that I started experimenting with graphic novels. At first it was a little dabble here and there, but it soon became a full-on habit of devouring page after page of stories told in intricate panels, and I was hooked. Graphic novels are novels in comic strip format, but are not exactly “comic books” themselves. They also tend to be longer, follow a more specific storyline with the same set of characters, and have more sturdy binding than comic books. The genre can include works of fiction, non-fiction, history, fantasy and everything in-between.
The reason I gravitate towards graphic novels is because of the combination of beautiful artwork paired with intriguing plotlines. What is said in a panel using just images oftentimes cannot be said with text alone.
A few of my favorites over the years have ranged from the dry comedic drama, Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw, to the richly illustrated intersection between Christianity and Islam, Habibi by Craig Thompson, to the epic space opera series, Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan. While very different in content, each of these (and many more) have offered satisfying results. Although Habibi, for example, is around 700 pages, the artwork serves to both break up and add to the plotline and enhance the story.
The Saga series is a multi-award winning masterpiece that deals with star-crossed (actually moon and planet-crossed) lovers Alana and Marko, as they deal with life on the run from various entities who want them dead. The series is occasionally narrated by their now-grown daughter and features an array of strange and fascinating creatures. Saga has also been praised for its diverse gender roles, sexualities, ethnicities, and for its realistic portrayal of the effects of war. The exciting, and sometimes PG-13 rated plotline, paired with gorgeous, colorful illustrations make Saga a pure joy to read and experience. Volume 7 is set to be released in the coming weeks, and I, for one, am anxiously awaiting its arrival.
So, if you find yourself in a reading rut and are looking for something off the beaten path, fear not! Check out a graphic novel and see what strikes your fancy. Whether you are looking to disappear into outer space or 1970’s Pakistan, or a strange family gathering, there is bound to be something for you to enjoy.
Celine Cooper is the Children and Youth Services Coordinator at the Nederland Community Library. You can find her reading, playing outdoors, or helping to improve and promote literacy amongst young people in Nederland and beyond.