I Kill Giants is a graphic novel geared toward teens and young adults. It was nominated for and/or won a number of prestigious awards, including an Eisner. Much like the last book I reviewed (I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter), this story centers on the effect of grief and trauma on a young girl. In this case, our protagonist is 5th grader Barbara Thorson, a girl who revels in Dungeons and Dragons, has no friends amongst her peers, is frequently bullied, is defiant toward authority, and who is preparing herself for battle.
The character of Barbara is both written and drawn as the consummate outsider/weirdo. Barbara talks to the pixies she imagines she sees all around her, and she carries a heart shaped bag containing a “weapon” that she has named Coveleski. Her reason for naming it thus is ingenious but her reason for carrying it is tragic. Barbara wears bunny ears or other animal-type hats, and has set giant traps near her home on Long Island. But she is neither weak nor ditzy. Barbara is unafraid of a fight, verbal or physical, even when her enemies outnumber or overpower her. She is armed with righteous anger and withering snark that she unleashes freely at school and at home, effectively alienating her siblings and a new neighbor who would like to be her friend. For most of the story, the reader does not know why Barbara is so certain that she is going to fight real giants. She seems mentally unstable, and she reacts with derision and even with her fists toward those who try to help her. The climax of this story is quite dramatic and terrifying, and it might make you shed some tears. This is a story of learning to confront that which scares you and finding out how strong you can be, and finding that perhaps you don’t have to fight alone.
This would be a good read for middle schoolers and older, and perhaps a good way to introduce a conversation about dealing with fear, loss, and anger. Patrick Ness’ novel A Monster Calls addresses similar issues and I do recommend it for the same reasons. Still, for some kids a graphic novel might be a bit more accessible.