Introduction

Do you know someone who loves sports? Or are you a sports fan or participant yourself? The No Flying, No Tights staff has got you covered! We hope this teen-focused list will help you find sports titles to read and/or recommend.

A Map to the Sun

Sloane Leong

This is a beautiful portrait of five very different members of the girls' high school basketball team, each contending with their own troubles in terms of school, family, and navigating friendship. The colors and art style are gorgeous, and the issues all of the players face are resonant and real. Even if they will never be the superstars of their school, sometimes playing the game and finding loyal teammates is what will save you.

Appeals to

Basketball fans, folks struggling to find their niche, and readers who look for a strong voice and art style match.

Content Notes

There is some reference to drinking and drugs, and tough family situations, that make this title especially appealing to older teens.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6906

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5393
Recommended by

Robin Brenner

Breakaways

Cathy G. Johnson

Faith joins the soccer team in hopes of playing with the most popular girl in school. Instead, she ends up on the worst team! Can Faith still find friends? This is a story of a girl coming of age and making friends, all of whom have their own struggles. Unlike many sports stories, Breakaways is not all about becoming better at the sport, and that will likely draw readers who want something a little different from the typical struggle to excel.

Appeals to

Fans of coming of age stories and slice of life stories like Raina Telgemeier and similar authors

  • Race and/or Nationality: Black
  • Sexuality: Queer
  • Main Character Identities:

      Recommended by

      Megan Rupe

      Check, Please!

      Ngozi Ukazu

      Eric Bittle journeys from Georgia to Massachusetts to join the men’s hockey team and possibly find a place for his gay, baking self. What follows is a college sports story full of romantic and platonic love and baked goods.

      Appeals to

      Readers looking for some sweet friendship/romance mixed in with their sports

      Content Notes

      College partying, brief homophobia; mental illness, and drug use

      Creator Identities:

      • Race and/or Nationality: 7136

      Main Character Identities:

      • Sexuality: 5362
      Recommended by

      Megan Rupe

      Cross Game

      Mitsuru Adachi

      Ko Kitamura is a bit of an awkward slacker, but his skills have caught the attention of those around him. Will Ko go all the way to become a great pitcher? At its core, Cross Game is a sweet, fun story about friends and baseball, although it’s not without its competitive edge.

      Appeals to

      Fans of slice of life and/or coming-of-age stories with great characters

      Content Notes

      Character death, although it does not happen on screen

      Creator Identities:

      • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese

      Main Character Identities:

      • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
      Recommended by

      Megan Rupe

      Dragon Hoops

      Gene Luen Yang

      Gene Luen Yang traces the journey of the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons to the high school state championships in this thoughtful, engaging graphic novel. With its fantastic visuals (including epic action shots) and nuanced story, Dragon Hoops is a read that will appeal to teens and adults who can’t get enough of NBA games.

      Appeals to

      Readers who like meaty sports stories; fans of Yang's other work

      Content Notes

      Brief discussion of a sex scandal

      Creator Identities:

      • Race and/or Nationality: 6756

      Main Character Identities:

      • Race and/or Nationality: 5357, 6007
      Recommended by

      Megan Rupe

      Eyeshield 21

      Inagaki Riichiro

      Rupe

      Sena is easily picked on yet is determined to fit in. His speed catches the notice of Himura, the football team captain, and he soon finds himself wrangled into playing for the high school football team.

      Appeals to

      Fans of stories with a good balance of comedy and action

      Content Notes

      Blackmailing, some violence; rude language/gestures

      Creator Identities:

      • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese

      Main Character Identities:

      • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
      Recommended by

      Megan Rupe

      Fence

      C.S. Pascat

      Johanna the Mad

      Nicholas dreams of becoming a champion fencer but loses badly to Seiji, a fencer with all the resources he doesn’t have, in a tournament. He enters King’s Row only to discover he's going to have to room with his rival Seiji and compete with him for a spot on the team! Can Nicholas find a way to shine?

      Appeals to

      People who like spunky characters like Hinata Shoyo from Haikyu; fans of high school sports stories; fencers who will like seeing their sport represented fairly accurately

      Creator Identities:

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese-American
        • Sexuality: Gay
        Recommended by

        Megan Rupe

        Haikyu

        Haruichi Furudate

        Ever since he saw the “Little Giant” play at volleyball nationals, Shoyo Hinata dreams of going to the high school volleyball national championships. Unfortunately, he has to work with Tobio Kageyama, a skilled player who’s all too willing to criticize Hinata, despite Hinata’s excellent athleticism. Can this unlikely duo help Karasano, a former volleyball powerhouse, go all the way?

        Appeals to

        Readers who love sports stories with plenty of grit and comedy

        Creator Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
        Recommended by

        Megan Rupe

        Kate's Really Good at Hockey

        Christina Frey

        Jade Gonzalez

        Kate has been accepted to a prestigious hockey camp for the summer, but she has to stay with her grandmother instead of the campus dorms. Her usual bouncy, glowing energy is dimmed a bit, but she remains focused on proving herself on the ice. Kate learns to keep her chin up even as the other girls play rough and coaches criticize her. She also learns her grandmother's close history with hockey and discrimination, as well as a tragic secret.

        Appeals to

        Fans of Roller Girl, hockey, and family bonding.

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: 5741
        Recommended by

        Thomas Maluck

        Muhammad Ali

        Sybille Titeux

        Amazing Ameziane

        Considered “the greatest”, Muhammed Ali was a force in and out of the boxing ring. In this compelling graphic biography, Sybille Titeux and artist Amazing Ameziane captures the legendary boxer’s life and career in a nuanced portrait that captures his heart but doesn’t shy from his experience as a black man and the complicated politics that came with it.

        Appeals to

        Comic biographies; readers interested in black history

        Content Notes

        Violence, racism

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: Black
        • Religion: Muslim
        Recommended by

        Megan Rupe

        Pele the King of Soccer

        Eddy Simon

        Vincent Brascaglia

        The life of Brazilian soccer star Edson Arantes do Nascimento--better known as Pelé-- comes to life in this graphic novel, which traces the star’s rise from playing in the streets to being beloved worldwide. The creators give readers a view into the world of pro-soccer and the political backdrop in which Pelé found himself, making this an excellent read for young and older readers alike.

        Appeals to

        Soccer fans and fans of great comic biographies

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: 5357, 5405
        Recommended by

        Megan Rupe

        Ping Pong

        Taiyo Matsumoto

        This series, from the creator of the more speculative and wild Tekkonkinkreet, is a classic sports manga series collected here in two extra-large volumes from VIZ's Signature line. VIZ Signature highlights the talents of distinguished manga creators that may be missed by casual manga fans, and this series is beloved for loose, energetic art and a solid competition story.

        Appeals to

        Fans of one on one sports matches, dynamic art, and epic ping pong action.

        Creator Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: 6849

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
        Recommended by

        Robin Brenner

        Real

        Takehiko Inoue

        Rupe

        Two teenagers--one a high school dropout, the other a wheelchair user--find themselves bonding over basketball. With its realistic portrayal of disability and flawed characters, this is a gritty, serious sports story.

        Appeals to

        Readers looking for something grittier

        Content Notes

        Drugged motorcycle accident

        Creator Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
        • Disability: Wheelchair User
        Recommended by

        Megan Rupe

        Roller Girl

        Victoria Jamieson

        After seeing a roller derby bout, twelve-year-old Astrid jumps at the opportunity to go to roller derby camp with her best friend Nicole. But Nicole wants to go to dance camp instead! Can Astrid survive camp on her own? Don’t miss this middle-grade tale of roller derby and friendship!

        Appeals to

        Readers who like coming of age stories such as works by Raina Telgemeier; fans of girl power stories

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: 5421
        Recommended by

        Megan Rupe

        Satchel Paige

        James Sturm

        Rich Tommasso

        Told from the perspective of a former opponent turned sharecropper, Satchel Paige is the story of black pitcher Satchel Paige as he travels from game to game wowing crowds. The climax is Paige taking on the narrator’s white bosses. With its distinctive pacing and thoughtful exploration of life under Jim Crow, this is an engaging read for all ages.

        Appeals to

        Baseball fans; readers interested in black history beyond the big names

        Main Character Identities:

        • Race and/or Nationality: African-American
        Recommended by

        Megan Rupe

        Soccer Switch

        Jake Maddox

        Various Artists

        This ongoing series focuses on team spirit, fair play, and sports action for a range of sports and games. This is a high appeal series especially for readers in grades 3-5, and spin-off series include titles that focus on female athletes and even younger players.

        Appeals to

        Middle-grade readers and especially those looking for quick-moving plots and slim volumes.

        Main Character Identities:

          Recommended by

          Robin Brenner

          Spinning

          Tillie Walden

          Tillie Walden takes the reader through her complicated relationship with competitive figure skating and synchronized skating. With its soft colors and flowing artwork, Spinning explores her life as a skater as she grows up, comes out, and figures out what she wants.

          Appeals to

          Teen and adult readers looking for a quieter sports story or a compelling memoir

          Content Notes

          Attempted sexual assault

          Creator Identities:

          • Sexuality: Lesbian

          Main Character Identities:

          • Sexuality: Lesbian
          Recommended by

          Megan Rupe

          The Avant-Guards

          Carly Usdin

          Noah Hayes

          When former basketball star Charlie transfers to a small arts college, she has sworn off the sport - the pressure gave her too much anxiety. But at her new school, friendly overachiever Liv is trying to start a basketball team and needs one more player, so she and her team of charming oddballs make it their mission to recruit Charlie. Hijinks - and sports, and romance - ensue.

          Appeals to

          Teens and up who enjoy goodhearted, funny, and inclusive stories

          Content Notes

          None

          Creator Identities:

          • Sexuality: 7031

          Main Character Identities:

          • Race and/or Nationality: 5357
          • Sexuality: 5364, 5363
          • Gender Identity: 5370
          • Disability: 5934
          Recommended by

          Nic Willcox

          The Crossover

          Kwame Alexander

          Dawud Anyabwile

          Josh and his brother JB are excellent basketball players, but when JB gets a girlfriend, will their relationship and basketball survive? With lyrical words and images, this is a good read about family played against a backdrop of the sport that binds them together.

          Appeals to

          Fans of Jerry Craft's New Kid; readers looking for a good coming of age sports story

          Content Notes

          Josh's father becomes extremely ill and there are some hospital scenes that might be upsetting for younger readers.

          Creator Identities:

          • Race and/or Nationality: African-American

          Main Character Identities:

          • Race and/or Nationality: African-American
          Recommended by

          Megan Rupe

          Whistle!

          Daisuke Higuchi

          Sho loves soccer, but his school’s team won’t accept him because he’s too small! Sho decides to switch schools only to have another setback when the team wrongly believes he’s much better than he is. But Sho doesn’t give up. With plenty of action and charm, this soccer tale will warm your heart.

          Appeals to

          Soccer fans of all ages

          Creator Identities:

          • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese

          Main Character Identities:

          • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
          Recommended by

          Megan Rupe

          Yowamushi Pedal

          Wataru Watanabe

          Okuda is an anime otaku who rides several miles to Akihabara for the merchandise he loves. When he catches the attention of bike racer Imaizumi, he finds him racing straight into a new hobby. With its great characters and enthusiasm for the sport, this is a read that readers will race to pick up!

          Appeals to

          Fans of Haikyu, readers who like stories about social misfits finding their place

          Creator Identities:

          • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese

          Main Character Identities:

          • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
          Recommended by

          Megan Rupe

          • Megan

            Features Writer

            | She/Her

            Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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