This middle grade graphic novel is a vibrant, sweet, and compelling story about being true to who you are even when there are pressures not to be. The artwork was awesome and I loved the panels including the main character’s vision of herself as a super hero. Marlene is a young Dominican girl who has thick, curly hair. Every week her mother makes her go to the salon to get it straightened so she can look more professional and “look her best”. Marlene hates every second of it and doesn’t feel like herself with the straight hair. She goes through a lot to try to figure out how to please her mother, not be bullied, and feel comfortable with herself. The messaging in this story is so beautiful, and one I think more people need to hear. Even well intentioned adults who focus too much on physical beauty standards can cause harm in the children around them.
I received an electronic ARC from First Second Books through NetGalley.
Wow! Middle grade readers will identify with Marlene even if they don't face this particular situation. My heart ached for her as she tried so hard to fit into the identity others wanted her to have. For her, this meant constantly battling to keep her hair straight with lengthy salon visits. It meant not learning how to care for her hair in its natural style. Unfortunately, this lead to bullying at school and hiding pieces of herself from her mom. With help and support from her aunt, she learns to care for her hair and find products and a style that works for her curly hair. The three of them - Marlene, her mom, her aunt - work to overcome generations of messages that only one style of hair is "good hair." This message will resonate with readers as they, too, figure out who they are becoming.
The artwork captures the character expressions and offers a look at what is happening under the surface for each.
Incredible graphic novel debut from author and artist! Gorgeous, vibrant art captures the sweetness and the pain in this story of a Dominican American family coming to terms with personal grief and inherited racist ideas about beauty. Marlene is an absolute delight — a good kid and talented young artist who is questioning hair politics, growing into her authentic self, and finding the courage to bring others along with her. And three cheers for tia Ruby and her chicken!
E ARC provided by Netgalley
In this graphic novel, we meet Marlene, whose least favorite thing is to go to the salon once a week with her mother in order to "tame" her curly hair. This involves setting it on rollers and sitting under a dryer until it is straight. Of course, if Marlene goes out in the weather or sweats, her hair reverts to its naturally curly and "frizzy" nature. Her mother, who has "good" hair doesn't like to spend the extra money going back to the salon, so she is often angry with Marlene for ruining her hair. This is especially evident when the two attend a cousin's Quinceanera. Marlene dances and enjoys herself, but gets sweaty in the process, and her mother is not happy with how she looks in the family pictures. After some trouble at school, Marlene complains to her mother that straight hair or braids are not making her happy, and some information about her mother's own relationship with her hair, as well as the family history, comes out. Marlene spends a weekend with her Tía Ruby learning how to care for her curly hair properly and feeling good about her choice.
Strengths: Marlene's struggles with her mother's expectations will ring true with many middle grade readers who might have skirmishes with their own parents about completely different issues. ("Don't put your hand in your pockets. Why is your hair so flat?" is my mother's voice in my head every day.) Marlene also struggles in school with people who don't understand her background, and is also at odds with the sometimes toxic values embraced by some of her family. It's good then, to see Tía Ruby, who is more comfortable in her own skin, and who takes Marlene under her wing. The best part of the book are the detailed instructions on how to care for curly hair. I've been trying to not blow dry my own hair and let it's natural curl come through, and it's not easy, especially since I balk at leave in conditioner and microfiber towels and just want the speed of blow drying! The cover is great, and I think a lot of my readers will see themselves in Marlene's picture.
Weaknesses: For readers not familiar with Afro-Latin culture, it would have been good to have a little more background information.
What I really think: This will be popular with fans of graphic novels with cultural connections, like Christmas' Swim Team, Wang's Stargazing, as well as readers who are fond of learning about Latine and Black culture.
Marlene is a tween who loves her books, her supercool Tía Ruby, and her best friend, Camila. What she doesn't love? Her mother's insistence on "growing up" and having "good hair", which means Marlene is spending every weekend in the salon having her hair straightened. She hates every bit of it, and wishes she could have curly hair like her Tía, or like one of her favorite characters, Dulce Maria from Super Amigas; then, she wouldn't be teased or forced into a hellish hair straightening torture session. Tía Ruby and Camila both come together to help Marlene appreciate and care for her beautiful hair - and Marlene and her mom have deep conversations about self-esteem and value. Ortega examines cultural attitudes, grief, and self-worth with a plot that reveals itself as the story moves along, keeping readers invested with every page. Marlene is a lovable character that readers will cheer for as she - and her hair - come into their own. Tía Ruby is a bright spark who shows Marlene the key to self-acceptance and hair care. Rose Bousamra's realistic illustration work is filled with rich color and Afro-Latinx characters. A first-purchase that so many readers need.
This was so cute and full of feels! The art style is lovely and the colors are gorgeous. A great story of fighting to feel like yourself, even when those closest to you don’t always understand. A great middle grade graphic novel that should have a place on the shelves of any library.
This story felt so real to me: the friendship between Marlene and Camila reminds me of so many BFFs I’ve taught, how mean kids like to point out Marlene’s differences is sadly too common in middle school, Marlene’s struggle with her identity versus what our society expects, and Marlene’s struggle to be true with her mom is something most middle schoolers struggle with. But luckily, this book is about self love, and I. Love. Books. About. Self. Love! And Bousamra’s illustrations just brough Ortega’s story to life! I will definitely get this for my students.
A graphic look at naturally curly hair. This book is needed. Now if I can just remember the parent who was in looking for books promoting natural curls for their little girl because I need to get this in her hands!
For Libraries: Buy this one!
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my rating.
MY GOD, I'm getting emotional over this graphic novel!
The art is beautiful, eloquent writing, and easy to read, I was immersed in the story. I'm going to recommend this book to everyone!!! Such an essential book to teach about self-esteem, respect, open communication with parents and children, society's expectations, and more.
If you have an hour in front of you, I recommend picking up this book on the 18 of October.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this novel.
A sweet book that reminds us that things that may seem simple to some (like hair) can hold power and nuance. Relatable and powerful.
This is a great book on coming of age, belonging, bullying, and family challenges. It talks about diversity and inclusion. It is an easy read and has great illustrations.
Not since Brenna Thummler's graphic novel Sheets has a middle grade GN given me all the feels until this book. Marlene struggles to break out of the "good hair" = beauty routine that finds her at the salon with her mother every week for straightning and taming of her curls and frizz. The not so subtle colorism from Marlene's own family, as well as the bullying from her classmates does not dampen her desire to be proud of her natural hair. Tia Ruby has beautiful natural hair and Marlene remembers that when her father was alive, he loved her mother keeping her hair naturally curly and not straightened so she has to tiptoe around grief, racism and colorism just to feel self love without hurting her mother.
Perhaps that is really what this is about. Frizzy is about love. It is about healing. It is about strength, that in itself is beautiful.
From the Publisher:
A middle grade graphic novel about Marlene, a young girl who stops straightening her hair and embraces her natural curls.
Marlene loves three things: books, her cool Tía Ruby and hanging out with her best friend Camila. But according to her mother, Paola, the only thing she needs to focus on is school and "growing up." That means straightening her hair every weekend so she could have "presentable", "good hair".
But Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn't understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. With a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby―she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair.
Author: Claribel A. Ortega
Illustrator: Rose Bousamra
Publisher: First Second
Publication date: October 18, 2022
This isn’t a story that I share. However, this was a great way for me and others to understand the struggles that others go through when it comes to different hair types. When I go to the salon every 3-5 months, it takes 30-45 minutes to wash, cut, dry, and style my hair. It takes 20 minutes each morning after a shower to do my hair. I’ve always wondered how others do their hair. This was a beautiful illustration of the emotions that come with hair acceptance.
This book was amazing! Marlene was very relatable, having grown up with fluffy, curly hair myself. I remember my mom trying to tame the mess that was my hair. Poor Marlene has to deal with feeling like she is disappointing her family and that who she is is not good enough. Many children share these same feelings but don't know how to handle them. I'm sure some lash out at the bullies around them like Marlene and find they are the only one suffering from consequences after. Marlene finally gets a handle on things after spending time with her cool Tia. She learns that there is no such thing as "good" hair, and that she should wear it the way that makes her happy not the way that makes other people happy. A great story about accepting yourself and being happy who you are.
(Thank you to Netgally for the approved E-ARC for in exchange for an honest review)
This was such a cute middle grade graphic novel. This really has some wonderful lessons to be learning especially for a younger reader. The themes of self acceptance and self love was beautiful to watch. I know that as a black woman I have always struggled to love my natural hair. I wish that I would have a had a book like this growing up.
Other than the awful family members and kids at her school this book was so great and absolute perfection. Some part of me just couldn't get over how mean they were to the main character and kept taking me out of the story so that is why it is not a full five stars. That being said I would 100% recommend this book and might even purchase a copy for my younger sister when the book does come out.
Thank you to NetGalley and First Second Books for the ARC!
What a fantastic read this book was! It was beautifully illustrated and the illustrations really leant to the emotions of the story. It was easy to empathize with Marlene and the struggle she faced when it came to beauty standards, her family and society's expectations, and bullying. But it was SO great to see her embrace herself for who she is and for her family to do the same in the end. As well, I loved the growth of Marlene and her mother's relationship over the course of the book, and I completely adored Marlene's friendship with her best friend, Camilla, and her relationship with her Tia Ruby—it all made the book shine!
Everything was extremely well done that I went through such an array of emotions, and in the end I was left with a huge smile on my face! Overall, it's an excellent read, and I would absolutely recommend!
Read in one sitting and I was left SOBBING. this is beautifully illustrated graphic novel about a young girl who just wants to be herself without the restricting beaauty standards of other. I loved her best friend and tia who help find ways to do her hair and remind her its beautiful ugh getting my own copy ASAP. Ortega is now an autobuy for me
After a weekend stay with her badass tia, Marlene learns how to take care of her hair texture with her tia emphasizing it’s a self care ritual solely for Marlene and not to appease society’s expectations. The relationships between women, that of Marlene and her aunt, and of Marlene and her best friend who supports Marlene fiercely are a joy to read. The struggle for Marlene’s mom to unlearn her own trauma with beauty expectations shows how younger generations can cause impactful change. Go young people! Loved this comic so much!
I loved this book and it's focus on finding satisfaction with one's personal appearance. I also like that it featured a mother/daughter relationship in which the mother admits that some of the things she'd been trying to teach her daughter weren't necessarily the best way to go about things. The art was also very nice and had a soft homey feel to it.
Thanks, NetGalley! Super cute middle grade graphic novel about a young girl torn between pleasing her mother and being herself. This is an important book for those who struggle to balance cultural acceptance with being true to themselves, and it was eye opening for me who has little experience with ultra curly hair, the struggle to learn the manage it, the bullying that may occur, and the societal pressures involved for those who embrace their natural hair. The illustrations were well done and enticing, and the story was great as a mirror for those who have experienced this as well as a window for those who haven’t. Well done.