15 Wise and Witty Graphic Memoirs Every Teen Should Read

by Laura Buchwald

Photography by Seana Williamson

Graphic novels are one of the fastest-growing genres in libraries and bookstores and have become especially popular among teenage readers. These novels tell stories through a combination of prose and pictures — generally in the form of comics, or what is known as “sequential art.”

There was once a stigma against graphic novels, with critics dismissing them as little more than glorified comic books. But these works can cover serious, intelligent topics. When cartoonist Art Spiegelman received a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for Maus, his graphic memoir about the Holocaust, he brought critical attention to the form and helped elevate it to a respectable literary genre.

Since then, more memoirists have chosen to chronicle their lives through graphic novels, sometimes combining their artwork with photos, journal entries, and other real-life mementos. The visual medium makes even the heaviest of topics a bit more accessible, and these memoirists frequently use dark humor to tell their stories.

Today’s digital landscape may also account for the growing interest in graphic novels. We’ve grown accustomed to merging text and visuals in our communications. And to the outward sharing of our lives. There’s also our shrinking collective attention span — we regularly write in 140 characters or fewer. That these stories move quickly accounts, in part, for their resurgence in popularity. Some studies even suggest that readers retain more information from a combination of visual and verbal material, making graphic novels valuable teaching tools as well.

These graphic novel memoirs present a range of compelling topics in smart, creative styles that will be entertaining and enlightening for teens (and many adults too).

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2022.