Spellbinding Reads for Young Adults
Header image by Sierra Koder via Pexels
This summer, I’ve been trying to relax—a concept I’m still learning to wrap my head around, admittedly—but one way I’ve decided to do that is to read a bunch of witchy, supernatural middle-grade/ YA graphic novels that bring me joy and make me smile. I wanted a who-will-take-me-to-prom dilemma or does-the-cute-barista-girl-like-me kind of problem. Nothing too intense, but enough to keep the drama simmering and the pages turning. Think cozy and charming, whimsical with a slight touch of darkness.
The books I’m recommending below all touch on and/or incorporate the archetype of the witch in one way or another. These characters are learning about the consequences of their magic, the power of self-acceptance, the beauty of kindness, and the enchantment of childhood. I recently finished taking an undergraduate children’s literature course, and something that it taught me, along with these reads, is that there is so much to be gained by reading picture books and middle grade novels and young adult comics as an adult. We often get so caught up in the complexities and responsibilities of our lives that we forget the simplicity of choosing happiness or remembering that it’s actually okay to fail. These books spoke to my inner child and felt like a warm hug, a gentle laugh, and a soft smile. They reminded me not to take life too seriously, to schedule time to have fun and play pretend, and that the imaginary friend I had as a kid was probably a ghost.
"The Okay Witch" by Emma Stein Kellner
When I was younger, one of my favorite types of books to read were hidden-identity stories. I so desperately wanted to find that I had a vampire bloodline or that a letter would show up at my doorstep at 13 inviting me to a magical school to study occult botany and mythological creatures. The Okay Witch plays with character arc in that thirteen-year-old Moth Hush discovers her family history is more…supernatural than she had been led to believe. Beyond themes of self-acceptance, breaking cycles, and untangling matriarchal drama, this graphic novel also teaches us that people aren’t just one thing, and more importantly, that people can change. I loved this book so much that I immediately got and read the sequel, The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow, and it was just as charming! Be sure to add Steinkellner to your TBR pile for sure.
"Doughnuts and Doom" by Balazs Loringzi
There are endless reasons to pick up this whimsical sapphic read about a struggling witch, her pet snake, and her rocker girl crush, but what I loved the most was how relatable it all felt. Here we have an enemies-to-lovers trope, but more than that, we have two women who are both working hard to achieve their goals and who are overcoming their obstacles with humility, grace, kindness…and okay, a little witchcraft, too. Plus, beyond the chocolate doughnuts and band practice, there are morality lessons throughout that speak to what it means to be a good human, and I appreciated that it showed this in both a cottage core and punk rock way.
"Coven" by Jennifer Dugan and Kit Seaton
Emsy Covington is about to have her entire world shattered when she finds out she needs to leave her comfortable life in California to return to her family’s coven in New York after the suspicious, gruesome deaths of several of their own. Coven is a queer graphic novel that explores tropes of found family, the unlikely hero, and the outcast, all while inviting readers into deeper conversations about ethics and mortality. Emsy, an elemental witch, has to learn to accept her power, grow into herself, and make difficult choices—some that involve homecoming, others that involve death witches—in an effort to save her coven, her friends, and ultimately, herself.
"Crumbs" by Diane Stirling
Ever since I read Travis Baldree’s Legends & Lattes, I’ve been on this cozy, cottagecore reading kick, and it should go without saying that if there are scones and coffee involved, it’s probably been on my bookshelf at one time or another. Crumbs is a wonderful pairing to Baldree’s book, as it follows Ray, a career-driven witch with a taste for romance, pastries and sacred forest blend coffee who falls in love with a barista and the coffee shop he works at. This book can only be described as wholesome. It has flying lessons and open-mic nights and stolen kisses in beautiful gardens, but it also has a plot that talks about self-worth, open communication, and honesty. As someone who is always thinking about their career and how their goals affect those around them, I feel like this book fell in my lap at the right time, and honesty, even though this is considered a YA read, it’s a book that adults can and should take a lot from.
"Séance Tea Party" by Reimena Yee
This middle grade graphic novel had everything I could possibly ask for: witches, ghosts, tea, and an existential crisis to sort through. See, this coming-of-age story follows Lora, a young girl in that liminal age before the teenage years strike, who is having a hard time letting go of her childhood, mostly because she’s afraid of losing the magic of her imagination. Instead of going to a party, she decides to have a séance tea party in her room, and that’s when she manifests Alexa, who she realizes was her imaginary friend from when she was a kid. The two of them get reacquainted and learn and grow with each other until the concept of age begins to hold more and more meaning. There are endless parts of the read that I loved, but some of my favorites were how Yee handles death, talks about the magic of childhood, and teaches children to always be confident and comfortable with who they are and what they enjoy—no matter how weird or supernatural it is.
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