Marlene’s cousin Diana is having her quinceañera, which means Marlene is at the salon with her Mami to get her thick, natural curls straightened. It’s painful and time-consuming, but necessary to make Marlene “presentable” – even beautiful? – for the festive gathering. Marlene both admires Diana’s “good hair” and longs to flaunt her natural curls like her Tía Ruby. Her best friend, Camilla, suggests looking up a beauty tutorial on YouTube, but debuting her new style goes terribly wrong thanks to some bullies and a cruel reminder about the death of her Papi when she was five. Marlene wants people to see her true self, occasionally frizzy hair and all, but her Mami warns that she must try and fit in to get by in the world. Why, she wonders, isn’t she good enough to be accepted the way that she is? A weekend with Tía Ruby may be just what Marlene needs to embrace her curl power, recognize and reject inter-generational racial bias within her family, and realize that there really is no such thing as good hair or bad hair. Artist Rose Bousamra uses bright, appealing artwork to depict Marlene’s Dominican culture (the salon scene, a lavish quinceañera, and tight-knit extended family) and urban neighborhood. Marlene’s facial expressions are wonderfully emotive, though her fabulous curls definitely are the star of the show!
THOUGHTS: Readers will appreciate this big-hearted (and, yes, big-haired) middle grade graphic novel for both the engaging storytelling and the underlying theme of self-acceptance.
Graphic Novel Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD