Belle of the Ball

First Second. Mar. 2023. 320p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250784131; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781250784124.
Gr 9 Up–When high school mascot Hawkins finally works up the courage to ask her crush Gina Moreno to the school dance, she doesn’t realize that Gina already has a girlfriend—star soccer player Chloe Kitagawa, who is Hawkins’s former childhood friend. Gina shoots Hawkins down, but sees an opportunity. She asks Hawkins to tutor Chloe in English, her worst subject. Hawkins is willing to do anything to get in Gina’s good graces and jumps at the chance. At first, it seems that Hawkins and Chloe couldn’t be more different, but over time, they learn that they have more in common than they thought. Romantic feelings blossom in the group, resulting in a love triangle. Costa’s illustrations in various shades of pink throughout the novel make the story feel bright and cheerful. All three main characters are well developed and distinct from one another in their interests, personalities, and strengths. Hawkins and Chloe both show significant character development over the course of the story, becoming more comfortable with themselves and one another. Costa raises important questions about societal expectations, identity, and self-expression that will be relatable to teens. Reminiscent of classic high school rom-coms, this graphic novel is delightful and sweet, perfect for fans of Alice Oseman’s “Heartstopper.”
VERDICT A sweet sapphic rom-com, this book is a must for any teen graphic novel collection.

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