Mari Costa’s new graphic novel Belle of the Ball is an irresistibly charming queer retooling of the high school love triangle–star athlete dates brainy, popular (and really haughty) cheerleader only to fall for a dorky (but also brainy) and endearing classmate. When we meet B. (for Belle) Hawkins, HS team mascot, she’s wearing her big costume cat head, crushing on head cheerleader Regina Moreno, and working up the nerve to ask her to the winter dance. Hawkins, Moreno says after her halting invitation, is “adorable” but she’s already got a date for the dance–her girlfriend, school soccer star Chloe Kitagawa, who arrives on the scene and isn’t happy to see the team mascot hitting on her girlfriend! However, Chloe may be a star on the field but her grades are a disaster and threaten Regina’s ambitious ten-year love/career plan–she and Chloe go to a top university on academic/athletic scholarships, respectively, and live happily ever after. So, Regina talks Hawkins into tutoring Chloe (they share an English class), only later they realize they were childhood friends infatuated with shojo manga and each other: Hawkins loved playing princess and Chloe was her knight. Needless to say, romantic hijinks and comical reversals ensue in this beautifully (and hilariously) illustrated queer teen rom-com. In this 12-page excerpt Hawkins (in her cat head) asks Regina out. Belle of the Ball by Mari Costa will be published by First Second this month.