Introduction

Accepting your body can be hard, especially when it doesn’t match your self-image or fit society’s ideals. The Features Team has compiled this list of comics where the characters navigate their relationship with their bodies, often while also figuring out how to handle other life challenges and society’s judgement. Discussions around body image often involve difficult topics, such as eating disorders, mental illness, dysphoria, and bullying, so we have written descriptions that describe the titles’ overall tone and provide content warnings. Please use the entries to select the titles that are best for you. We hope you find titles that meet your needs, whether you need a mirror to self-reflect or a guide to help you on your journey.

About Betty's Boob

Vero Cazot

Julie Rocheleau

Cover Image

After breast cancer takes her left breast, Elisabeth finds herself without a job and partner. As she struggles to come to terms with her changed body, she meets a cabaret group that sets her on a journey to self-acceptance.

Appeals to

About Betty’s Boob touches on some tough topics, yet its vibrant art and playful, often humorous, storytelling, ultimately give the story a hopeful, joyous tone. It is perfect for readers who want stories that explore body acceptance and will be especially relevant to those who want to explore body acceptance in the wake of illness.

Content Notes

Betty’s Boob has some nudity (much of it contextually appropriate), scenes leading up to intercourse, and some dream sequences that might unnerve some readers.

Creator Identities:

Canadian, French |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Be Gay Do Comics!

Matt Bors (Ed.)

Cover Image

In this comics anthology from The Nib (RIP), many of the authors grapple with complicated feelings about their bodies that are wrapped up in their queer identities. For comics dealing with big feelings about bodies, check out "Gender Isn't a Binary and Neither is Anatomy"; "Off the Rack"; "Boobs Aren't Binary"; "I Am More Than My Chromosomes"; and "It's All for the Breast".

Appeals to

Anyone looking for thoughtful and deeply personal pieces about the good, the bad, and the so bad you just have to laugh of the queer experience will find something in this anthology.

Content Notes

Discussions of Homophobia and Transphobia. Discussions of Gender Dysphoria.

Creator Identities:

Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Pansexual, Queer |

Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, Nonbinary, Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Pansexual, Queer |

Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, Nonbinary, Trans |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Chunky

Yehudi Mercado

Cover Image

Hudi's got a lot going on, with doctors telling him to lose weight and parents pushing him to try sports he has no interest in, on top of other health problems and his parents' money issues, oh and also being the only kid in his small town who's Jewish and Mexican. He discovers an imaginary friend who cheers him on through the various attempts, but each sport makes him feel more and more discouraged about his body. But he finally discovers what works for him and his parents learn to trust his instincts on what makes him happy and whole.

Appeals to

Chunky is less specifically about eating disorders and more about being comfortable and healthy in your body, but I feel that this is a great introduction to talking about disordered eating and body dysmorphia with children, among other things. As such, this comic is something for families to read together and discuss, or for children who feel left out by society for who they are.

Creator Identities:

Mexican |

Jewish |

Main Character Identities:

Mexican-American |

Jewish |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Eat, and Love Yourself

Sweeney Boo

Cover Image

Mindy has tried just about any diet or promise a magazine has given her for weight loss, and it always crashes and fails. One lonely night, she finds an odd chocolate bar in the convenience store called "Eat and Love Yourself". Each time she eats a piece, she remembers a moment in her past and with it, slowly heals her relationship with her body and with accepting love from others.

Appeals to

This comic isn't as in-depth or as emotionally difficult as some of the others in this list, so this might be a good starting point for someone wanting to try reading about eating disorders but isn't quite ready for the heavy hitters. It's unusual too in that it has a more magical solution for the very real issues of eating disorders, but the message of learning to love yourself and reflecting on your past to help heal is great.

Content Notes

Discussions of eating disorders, depictions of depression

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Embrace Your Size: My Own Body Positivity

hara

Cover Image

In this collection, artist Hara describes her own journey toward body acceptance as a plus-sized person. Over the course of the book, she details her own struggles with her weight and society's pressures, the effects her poor body image had on her mental health and art, her sources of inspiration, and recommendations for positive plus-sized representation. With its mix of topics and approachable style, Embrace Your Size feels like you're in a conversation with a friend. Hara's adorable illustrations are an added bonus!

Appeals to

Although Hara addresses difficult topics like disordered eating and bullying, the warm tone and the fact that she focuses on reflections about her journey make Embrace Your Size an overall hopeful read. I would give this to readers who are interested in exploring body acceptance and body positivity but are looking for a gentler read.

Content Notes

Portrayal of bullying, struggles with shopping and clothes as a plus-sized person, and mental health struggles; discussion of disordered eating behaviors

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Galaxy The Prettiest Star

Jadzia Axelrod

Jess Taylor

Cover Image

On the outside, it would seem that Taylor Barzelay had it all. Brains, good looks, and a basketball star, he's what most awkward adolescents dream of being. But on the inside, he's an alien princess hiding as a boy on Earth to escape an intergalactic war that killed the king and queen and ravaged their home world of Cyandii. When Taylor meets the cute and fun Kat, she starts to realize that sacrificing her identity for safety may have been too high of a price to pay. This graphic novel explores the pain of wearing your body as a mask and the joy of being your full and authentic self.

Appeals to

Anyone waiting for a transfemme superhero, she's here and interstellar.

Content Notes

xenophobia and transphobia

Creator Identities:

Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Trans |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Horse Trouble

Kristin Varner

Cover Image

Kate is completely in love with horses and riding, even though some of the barn girls are mean because she keeps falling off! If her barn woes aren’t enough, she is also struggling with being chubby and dealing with bullies and boys. Kate’s riding instructor starts preparing her for a prestigious horse show. Can Kate rise to the occasion?

Appeals to

In addition to being a great read for horse lovers, Horse Trouble also highlights the importance of learning to thrive even if your body is not “perfect”. Even though she struggles with her body image, Kate has friends and acknowledges her own abilities. Horse Trouble could be a great book to help young readers get ideas about managing body insecurity.

Content Notes

Bullying, body insecurity, dieting

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Hungry Ghost

Victoria Ying

Cover Image

All of Valerie's careful control of her life, grades, and most importantly her body, goes out the window when tragedy finds her family. In the wake of loss, things first get worse especially as her mother's toxicity towards Valerie and her body gets more invasive. Her relationships crumble as she lashes out, but with time and reflection Valerie realizes she needs help and the way she lives isn't normal, her mother's attitude isn't normal, and Valerie reaches out for help. Hungry Ghost ends not with a perfect happily ever after, but instead that recovery is a process.

Appeals to

What makes Hungry Ghost particularly great is that it shows how pervasive the thoughts around eating disorders are, and how normalized it can all be for people dealing with them. The way Valerie is written feels true to teens, and with the story being serious and not overly happy, I could see this being a great recommendation for teens. There's also resources in the back, so if they want to do more research they can without having to ask someone.

Content Notes

Depictions of binging and purging, disordered eating

Creator Identities:

Chinese-American |

Main Character Identities:

Chinese-American |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

I'm Kinda Chubby and I'm Your Hero

Nore

Cover Image

Ponjirou is an actor trying to get his big break but is worried his weight will get in the way of his dreams. Mysterious gifts of sweets from a local shop give him a needed pick-me-up. When he meets his secret fan--Konnosuke, a local pastry chef--the two start forming a deep friendship. With each supporting the other, can they achieve their goals?

Appeals to

With a sweet, light plot centered around a great relationship, I’m Kinda Chubby and I’m Your Hero is a charming story that is perfect for readers looking for a positive story featuring a chubby lead. I would especially recommend this to readers who love warm character dynamics similar to those found in Heartstopper.

Content Notes

Some fatphobia and intoxication

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

My Body in Pieces

Marie-Noëlle Hébert

Cover Image

Written first in her native French and translated for English-speaking audiences by Shelley Tanaka, Marie-Noëlle Hébert's graphic memoir, My Body in Pieces, is an unflinching look at a girl trying to break free of her own self-destruction while those around her only reinforce negative opinions and stereotypes.
Like many young girls, society has convinced young Marie-Noëlle that the solution to all of her problems (her family making fun of her eating habits at the dinner table, the girls at school calling her ugly, the boy she likes not paying her any attention) is to be thin and beautiful. But when she starts a fitness routine to try to change, it sends her down a spiral of obsession with her weight and appearance, and into bouts of depression and suicidal ideation. When a close friend convinces her to try therapy, though, her journey starts to take a turn in the direction of healing and self-confidence.
Hébert's graphite pencil illustrations in a variety of art styles depict both intensely difficult, potentially triggering subjects and the beauty of finding and becoming unapologetically yourself. Told in language easily approachable to teen readers, My Body in Pieces is a moving, important coming-of-age tale,

Appeals to

Teen readers who have enjoyed other graphic memoirs about mental health and/or memoirs about teens in difficult situations who have survived and found their own strength. Also would appeal to adults who enjoy graphic memoirs.

Content Notes

Mentions of suicidal ideation, depression, eating disorder, body dysmorphia.

Recommended by

Maddi Ranieri

Nervosa

Hayley Gold

Cover Image

In this raw memoir, Hayley Gold explores her quest to make an impact while battling her anorexia.

Appeals to

Nervosa will appeal to readers who like frank narratives that don’t follow conventional narrative patterns for a topic. Gold doesn’t sugarcoat her emotions or condition, and I appreciated her honest discussion of the physical and psychological impacts of her struggle with the disease and the often cruel medical system in which she was a frequently frustrated and reluctant participant.

Content Notes

Nervosa includes several hospital scenes and medical treatments; there are incidents of cruel treatment from staff, including one molestation. It also frankly discusses anorexia’s mental aspects as well as the physical conditions that can result from having the disease. Calorie numbers, as well as eating disorder behaviors (hiding food, tactics to change weight, etc.), are also portrayed. Nervosa also addresses Gold’s difficult upbringing, including Gold’s father’s frequent putdowns of her mother and Gold herself.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Short and Skinny

Mark Tatulli

Cover Image

This graphic novel is based on the author's experience growing up in the late 70s as a comic-loving kid who dreams of a growth spurt and big muscles. Right before summer vacation, Mark finds an ad that promises all of this with the help of a miracle cure that claims to make you taller and/or stronger in the back of a Mad Magazine. He thinks this is the boon he's been waiting for and sends away for it, hoping to go back to school in the fall completely changed. This is all happening in the summer of 1977, the same summer that the first Star Wars movie came out. Mark quickly falls in love with the movie and wants to create a parody movie. With the help of his friends and family, he spends the whole summer planning, prepping, and filming his Star Wars parody film and learns that people like him for his humor and creativity, even if he didn't get those instant muscles or grow 5 inches taller.

Appeals to

Lovers of Dairy of a Wimpy Kid will love this underdog story.

Content Notes

Bullying

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Smaller Sister

Maggie Edkins Willis

Cover Image

Lucy loves and looks up to her big sister, Livy, but lately, Livy has been acting differently. Soon Lucy discovers Livy has an eating disorder, and she can’t help Lucy with her problems at her new school. Lately, Lucy has been wondering if her own problems would go away if she changed her body…

Appeals to

This warm story about two sisters wrestling with school challenges and disordered eating strikes a perfect balance of hopeful and honest, and middle-grade and tween readers dealing with the complicated challenges of tween/teen life and body image will want to pick this up. The sisters’ bond is a wonderful centerpiece of the book, and the vibrant art brings the story to life. As a bonus, Edkins Willis offers some resources for those going through similar struggles in her afterword.

Content Notes

Smaller Sister portrays eating disorder thought patterns and behaviors as well as bullying.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    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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  • Tayla

    | She/Her Branch Librarian

    Features Writer

    Tayla Cardillo (she/her) is the Branch Librarian of the Oaklawn branch of the Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI. She is also a member of the ALA Graphic Novel and Comic Round Table and the chair of the Rhode Island Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee. She completed her MLIS at the University of Rhode Island and her B.A. in English at Rhode Island College. Tayla has known that she wanted to be a librarian since she was 17 years old. When not doing library wizardry, she enjoys playing tabletop games and cosplaying.

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  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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  • Maddi

    | she/her Youth Services Librarian

    Reviewer

    Maddi is a Youth Services Librarian at the Charlotte & William Bloomberg Medford Public Library in Massachusetts, where she runs the library’s GSA for teens in grades 6-9, two graphic novel book clubs (one for teens and one for 4th and 5th graders), drawing classes for kids and teens, storytimes, and more. She is also responsible for collection development for the teen graphic novel collection, where (in alignment with the rest of the coworkers in her department) she makes it her mission to amplify queer, BIPOC, neurodivergent, and disabled voices. When she’s not at the library, you’ll likely find her: singing in two queer choirs, drawing or hand lettering something, curled up with a book, or spending time with her girlfriend and friends. Maddi runs the MPL GSA Tumblr at mplchameleon, and tweets bookish things at @littlebrarian.

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