Curlfriends: New in Town

Little, Brown Ink. (Curlfriends: Bk. 1). Oct. 2023. 288p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316591478; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780316591454.
Gr 5-8–Twelve-year-old Charlie Harper has gotten used to constantly moving and starting over thanks to her Air Force father’s many deployments. But now that her father has retired, Charlie’s family is finally settling down. Convinced that she only gets one chance to make a good first impression, Charlie is determined to make her first day at Hill Valley Middle School a perfect one. She has researched the latest fashions, is trying new hairstyles, and has made the switch from glasses to contacts. After meeting a group of friends following an unfortunate run-in with the janitor’s water bucket, Charlie realizes it’s not easy trying to uphold her new persona as she goes out of her way to hide all the parts of herself she deems uncool. Text boxes and speech bubbles run long and the flow of dialogue sometimes feels stilted, but the almost overwhelming uncertainty and desire to fit in that Charlie experiences ring painfully true. The pastel rainbow palette, sparse backgrounds, and confidence of Charlie’s friend group provide a refreshing counterbalance to her anxiety, modeling a type of genuine self-confidence not often depicted in this age group. Mr. Harper’s confession to Charlie about his own struggles as a young person offers additional reassurance that this too shall pass. The main characters are Black and Latinx, background characters appear to be racially and ethnically diverse, and a wheelchair user makes an appearance.
VERDICT A sincere and relatable depiction of trying too hard to fit in and almost losing yourself in the process. Recommended.

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