The Deep & Dark Blue

The Deep & Dark Blue is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Niki Smith. It tells the story of identical twins Grayce, a transgender girl, and Hawke, a cisgender boy, who have to flee from their home when their cousin stages a coup on the kingdom and kills the rest of their family.

The Deep & Dark Blue
The Deep & Dark Blue.jpg
AuthorNiki Smith
PublisherLittle, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date
January 7, 2020

Smith's debut middle grade novel was published on January 7, 2020 by a Little, Brown and Company imprint, and was received positively by critics, who praised the writer's worldbuilding and the novel's affirmative look on transgender identity.


The Deep & Dark Blue received a starred review by Kirkus Reviews, which praised its usage of bright colors to draw attention to certain aspects of the story, as well as the novel's "[d]ynamic panel layouts" that "give the story momentum and help communicate the tone." The reviewer also praised the diversity of the supporting cast.[1] Publishers Weekly praised the "anime-inspired illustrations" by Smith, including the facial expressions shown by the characters, as well as the "capable worldbuilding and a positive look at transgender identity" present in the novel.[2]

Writing for the School Library Journal, Kelley Gile noted the novel's art style was inspired by mangas. Gile also mentioned the palette used in the novel, calling it "integral to the story".[3] Kiri Palm, for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books said the novel "offers a refreshing spin on the crossdressing-for-noble-reasons trope" due to Grayce's story of self-discovery as a trans woman. Palm also mentions how the art plays a part in Grayce's revelation as it "allows the reader to slowly discover Grayce's comfort with feminine attire and the responsibilities of her new life in the Sisterhood", while her brother is not able to accept the same role.[4]

In a review for The Comics Journal, Hillary Brown criticized the cover of the book, mentioning how some of the choices by the author "makes it feel like Smith is new to comics," but praised other aspects of the novel, such as the author's choice to not stretch "into a trilogy." Brown mentioned in a positive note how there is a bigger focus on "the discovery of one's true gender than in fighting sequences," and called the fighting scenes boring but "Grayce's face as she struggles with her new knowledge is touching and evocative." The reviewer also called attention to the pages' layout, saying they "create interesting compositions," and the color. Brown concluded the review by saying the novel "doesn't transcend its audience, but it plays to it okay."[5]


Accolades for The Deep & Dark Blue
Year Accolade Result Ref.
2021 Lambda Literary Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature Shortlist [6]
YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection [7]
Rainbow Book List Top 10 [8]
2020 Kirkus Reviews' Best Middle-Grade Books Selection [9]


  1. ^ "THE DEEP & DARK BLUE". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  2. ^ "Children's Book Review: The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  3. ^ Gile, Kelley. "The Deep & Dark Blue". School Library Journal. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  4. ^ Palm, Kiri (January 2020). "The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith (review)". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 73 (5): 229. doi:10.1353/bcc.2020.0057. S2CID 214035490.
  5. ^ Brown, Hillary (March 5, 2020). "The Deep & Dark Blue". The Comics Journal. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  6. ^ "The US-Based Lambda Literary Awards Program Names Its 2021 Finalists". Publishing Perspectives. 15 March 2021. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  7. ^ "2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). 2021-01-05. Retrieved 2022-01-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "The 2021 Rainbow Book List". Rainbow Book List. Retrieved 2022-01-01.
  9. ^ "Best of 2020". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 2022-01-01.