cover image Belle of the Ball

Belle of the Ball

Mari Costa. First Second, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-78413-1

Though painfully shy high school senior and athletic mascot B. Hawkins tends to hide inside her costume’s large feline head, she’s finally worked up the courage to ask out head cheerleader Regina Moreno. The good news is that Regina thinks Hawkins is adorable; the bad news is that Regina recently got back together with her on-again, off-again girlfriend, star athlete Chloe Kitagawa. Worried that Chloe’s poor grades will jeopardize her 10-year plan, Regina leverages Hawkins’s infatuation to persuade her to tutor Chloe for free. Hawkins hesitantly agrees, but an initial tutoring session gets off to a rough start when Chloe realizes that Hawkins is actually a childhood friend and former crush, prompting unexpected romantic feelings to resurface. Thin b&w lines coupled with vividly saturated pink hues imbue this energetic graphic novel rom-com with a cotton-candy atmosphere that expertly conveys the trials and tribulations of first love. Costa (Life of Melody) smartly employs classic shojo manga aesthetics, well-timed comedic beats, and winningly characterized protagonists to deliver a refreshing spin on the love triangle trope that meditatively interrogates identity. Hawkins is white and Jewish; Regina is Brazilian; Chloe cues as East Asian. Ages 14–up. Agent: Peter Ryan, Stimola Literary Studio. (Mar.)