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Graphic Novels with an LGBTQIA+ Focus

By Gemma Mathers, Brittany Holness, Holly Butterfield, Imogen Bristow and Lucy O’Neill

Demand is generally what determines the trends that overtake the book market and what type of books receive greater recognition. Graphic novels have become one such genre, being on the receiving end of this demand. These novels can enhance and aid the reading experience by portraying the setting and characters in a physical manner. Representation remains important across genres, and graphic novels have become popular, due not only to the aforementioned benefits, but also the emphasised presence of LGBTQIA+ characters. 

Graphic novels have consistently been marketed to younger readers because of their visual appeal and expressive narrative elements, both of which can retain the interest of young people. Heartstopper is an example of a graphic novel that has achieved great success, even gaining a TV adaptation. As a result of such immense success, graphic novels are now in demand, especially those geared towards the LGBTQIA+ community. In honour of Pride month, the team will be examining graphic novels that focus on LGBTQIA+ representation. 

While not new in this format, the need for diverse representation for a younger audience is ever-growing. YA (young adult) literature has often been ahead of the curve when it comes to the inclusion of representational and diverse narratives, characters and overall themes, as well as ensuring these impactful stories get into the hands of those who need them most. These stories are imperative for a younger audience, and helping readers to identify with similar characters who often share fundamental experiences can help create a sense of community they might otherwise be lacking. The stories serve as a guide for younger teens, often aiding them through the challenge of coming out and discovering who they are. 

With more and more graphic novels coming to the forefront of the literary world, and with the media generated by Heartstopper becoming a Netflix phenomenon, it’s so important that sub-genres of LGBTQIA+ narratives are not being pushed to the sidelines, but are instead being actively celebrated in wider culture. Fortunately, these stories are continuing to grow and are being picked up by traditional publishers. 

The popularity of graphic novels can largely be put down to their accessibility. The combination of text and illustrations aids in the mental processing of plot lines. This makes stories easier to follow and is often less overwhelming for dyslexic readers or those who struggle to read large swathes of text. This means that graphic novels are an excellent choice for engaging reluctant readers, and they are making their way into school libraries for this very reason. 

As shown, YA LGBTQIA+ graphic novels tend to cover sensitive topics such as mental health, race, disability and other themes associated with coming-of-age narratives. The graphic novel format deals with these themes particularly well, as the addition of a visual medium allows for more creativity, self-expression and impact. It allows creative practitioners to develop books that resonate with the audience on a deeper level. 

Here are some of the many recommendations you might want to pick up, both during Pride month and beyond:

Beloved by many and recently turned into a Netflix series, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman tells the story of Nick and Charlie: two boys who fall in love. The main focus of this series has always been self-discovery and identity, and it’s the wide diversity across this series that has readers falling in love with Heartstopper. The raw and honest reality of figuring out who you are as you grow up is a very relatable experience. Alice Oseman captures this sentiment perfectly with her simple artistic style and joyful depictions of friendship. Despite the serious topics that are included in the narrative, Heartstopper can only be described as wholesome and heart-warming. 

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu is a story that focuses on how love can tie in with self-discovery, all while adhering to the tropes of the fantasy genre. As one of the most popular genres, these fantasy elements help give a wider voice to LGBTQIA+ representations. It ensures that more readers are drawn to these books and will be able to experience and sympathise with this story’s particular experiences and emotions. 

Another graphic novel whose LGBTQIA+ representation has reached a wide audience is Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki. This graphic novel focuses on two non-binary characters and their relationship with one another. Through these characters, LGBTQIA+ readers can better understand their own relationships and find comfort in this tale about focusing on the good relationships in life, rather than the bad ones. 

Graphic novels continue to have a huge impact on readers’ awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community and help give a voice to a wide variety of readers. The increased visibility of this 

genre is highly important for providing a deeper understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community and offering greater accessibility for readers. Younger readers, in particular, will profit from this increase in availability. 



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