Belle of the Ball

Inside every mascot, there’s a person. Belle Hawkins (you can call her Hawkins) doesn’t mind that she’s the one stuck behind the tiger mask at her high school. A true wallflower, she prefers the anonymity of hiding her face in front of the whole school. It doesn’t hurt that there’s the added advantage of getting to spend more time near her crush, Regina Moreno, head cheerleader and Hawkins’ total dream girl. Belle of the Ball by Mari Costa is the story of Hawkins’ senior year and what happens when she peers out from behind her mascot head. 

Throughout school, Hawkins kept to herself, content with her own interests like manga and very girly things, all while keeping up her grades and not thinking much about what comes next. Feeling particularly brave after practice, she finally decides to go for it and ask out Regina. Regina isn’t just the head cheerleader; she’s one of the most popular girls at school, successful and motivated too. Who doesn’t have their whole life planned out in twelfth grade? There’s just one not-so-little problem in the shape of a massive jock named Chloe Kitagawa, who happens to be Regina’s longtime girlfriend. Hawkins’ attempt at bravery goes awry when Chloe catches her in the act and immediately puts a stop to it. 

But the three aren’t out of each other’s lives yet. In order for Regina to have the next ten years go exactly as she’s planned them, Chloe needs to bring up her English grade and it seems that Hawkins is the perfect English tutor. The teens’ lives begin to encircle each other as they navigate this final year of high school while rediscovering friendships, evaluating expectations, and even getting some kissing in too. 

Belle of the Ball is an engaging graphic novel for teen readers that deals with the realities of growing up and discovering who you are. The graphic novel is recommended for high school age readers but also has crossover appeal for adult readers too. Costa’s storytelling highlights the growth of the characters and makes the reader feel connected to each of the main characters individually. The plot flows at a reasonable pace, giving readers a chance to settle in with these girls. Plus, it is just a delightfully sapphic story!

Costa’s art is animated and enchanting. The color palette of the graphic novel is very pink, with only a few other colors, and it fits the story absolutely perfectly. The varying hues of pink complement the charm of the characters and their individual stories. The manga influence in some of the panels, reflecting Hawkins’ own interests in the story, is another great touch. There are also diverse body types so many readers can see themselves on the pages. 

Readers who enjoy young adult romance or the Heartstopper series will dive right into Belle of the Ball. It is just as sweet as its pink color pages and will fit nicely in any Valentine’s Day or romantic comedy display. 

Belle of the Ball
By Mari Costa
Macmillan First Second, 2023
ISBN: 9781250784124

Publisher Age Rating: 14-18

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation:  Brazilian-American,  Lesbian
Character Representation: Lesbian, Jewish

Supper Club

Iris, Lili, and Nora are three best friends, ready to take on their senior year at Seaside High and to make the most of this time together. Jackie Morrow’s Supper Club follows the girls through a school year full of changes and growth. 

Senior year is not a time for slacking and each girl’s plate is fuller than ever. It’s not just classes or college decisions hanging over their heads, everyone is just busy all of the time. Iris is always aiming to be the best at everything she does, Lili is dealing with distance from her parents, and Nora is finding it harder to deal with things that used to come easily. The creation of the titular Supper Club comes when Nora realizes the thing that’s been pulling them to after school clubs has always been the lure of free food. As long as they always have a reason to meet on Friday nights, there’s no way their friendship will suffer or fall apart!

The club becomes a safe space for the friends, along with a few other classmates, to share time with each other and to share cuisines from everyone’s cultures. The school year rages on with each of the three friends facing harder, and oftentimes more private, challenges that test their friendship and the club itself, getting to a point where the girls are barely speaking to each other. But it always comes back to Supper Club, the food they’re sharing with each other on those Friday nights, and the friendships that keep bringing them back to the meetings. 

Nearly every chapter of the graphic novel is named after a food item consumed at one of their club meetings. As one character points out, food is a special kind of comfort, just like the company of friends. Readers may be inspired to follow along with the dishes and it could even inspire some Supper Club themed book discussions. The author includes three recipes of her own at the end of the book as well. Young foodies and chefs will eat this up! 

The art of Supper Club excels at expressing the emotions of the characters, especially in scenes where the characters are dealing with anxiety and stress. The pages representing a panic attack are intense and invoke the feeling to a point some readers may need to take a minute to take a breather. Additionally, the food preparation scenes are specific and colorful, with the food holding its own in the panels. Allie Pipitone’s work as colorist deserves a mention for how often the coloring helps tell the story and guide the reader’s emotions. 

Overall, Supper Club is a cute and heartfelt graphic novel recommended for young adult readers. There is some crossover potential for both older middle grade and adult readers, as the story can be appreciated by a range of ages. Readers who loved Lucy Knisley’s Relish will eat this book up, as will readers who enjoy the friendships in John Allison’s Giant Days. It may inspire some readers to start supper clubs of their own too!  

Supper Club
By Jackie Morrow
Image, 2022
ISBN: 9781534324213

Publisher Age Rating: Teen+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)