First Second. Oct. 2022. 224p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250259622; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781250259639.
Gr 4-8–Every Sunday, Marlene and her mom visit the dreaded salon for a day of hair-pulling and the unforgiving heat of the hair dryer. Because her hair needs to look pretty for her older cousin’s quinceañera, the Afro-Dominican tween has to go for a second round of hair straightening, otherwise she won’t look presentable in her family’s eyes. While the adults marvel at her cousin’s “good” hair—straight and blond—Marlene doesn’t understand why her curls aren’t good enough. With the help of her like-minded friend and her forward-thinking aunt, Marlene embraces herself, inside and out. In the creators’ graphic novel debut, themes of anti-Blackness, colorism, and self-acceptance are explored with nuance and honesty. The subject of internalized racism is discussed in a way that will resonate with kids and families grappling with it for the first time. Bullying and grief are some of the other issues addressed. Ortega’s writing is pitch-perfect for middle grade; she gives Marlene an extra layer of vulnerability that tweens will recognize. Bousamra’s candy-colored palette of pinks, purples, blues, and coppers makes this sweet coming-of-age tale even more accessible and welcoming. The characters’ facial expressions and the dynamic panel design keep the narrative flowing. Readers with curly hair will want to take notes as Marlene’s aunt teaches her how to style her hair. Marlene has brown skin, and her family members have a variety of hair textures and skin colors.
VERDICT An excellent choice for all graphic novel collections. Give to those who are not ready for Elizabeth Acevedo’s books.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing