Let your frizz run free

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This graphic novel, aimed a middle school aged children, is full of heavy issues: bullying, self-image, racism, growing up, standing up for yourself. They are all handled deftly and the story never gets heavy handed. I like the balance Ortega achieves in her characters. Marlene is slightly defiant but not disrespectful of her mother. Her mother doesn't understand Marlene but she is loving and not unkind. It is a enjoyable journey as you watch Marlene try to navigate some tricky life issues. She is being told to be herself but also being told (by the same person) that she should change. She is very relatable as she tries to make her mother happy but at the same time not lose herself. The ending is a bit idealized I think. It almost seems too easy. I think there would have been more tension in the real world. But it is very satisfying and heartwarming. The expressive, vibrant artwork is wonderful and brings this lovely story to life. Anyone who has been told they are less because of who they are, or that they have to become someone they are not to fit in will relate to Marlene and her story.