Belle of the Ball Review

By Mari Costa

Publisher: First Second

Print Length: 320

Release Year: 2023

Genre: Graphic Novel LGBT Romance 

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.3

Available on Amazon and B&N

A young adult graphic novel about high school wallflower Belle Hawkins, who ends up in a love triangle after tutoring the girlfriend of her crush.

High-school senior and notorious wallflower Hawkins finally works up the courage to remove her mascot mask and ask out her longtime crush: Regina Moreno, head cheerleader, academic overachiever, and all-around popular girl. There’s only one teensy little problem: Regina is already dating Chloe Kitagawa, athletic all-star…and middling English student. Regina sees a perfectly self-serving opportunity here, and asks the smitten Hawkins to tutor Chloe free of charge, knowing Hawkins will do anything to get closer to her.
And while Regina’s plan works at first, she doesn’t realize that Hawkins and Chloe knew each other as kids, when Hawkins went by Belle and wore princess dresses to school every single day. Before long, romance does start to blossom…but not between who you might expect. With Belle of the Ball, cartoonist Mariana Costa has reinvigorated satisfying, reliable tropes into your new favorite teen romantic comedy. (Goodreads)

World Building★★★★

In association with HearOurVoices Book Tours. See also Interview with Author Mari Costa.

Belle of the Ball is a thoroughly entertaining romantic comedy that subverts expectations in the most fun way. Costa explores genre archetypes through a pink lens, with characters depicting three main-character types of teen romantic comedies, all while avoiding the more blatantly negative stereotypes. We have a jock who, behind a tough exterior, is passionate about game development and feels confined to societal expectations; a cheerleader who’s a little overzealous regarding academics and their idyllic future; and the geek, who is really a princess in disguise. It’s hard not to fall in love with Costa’s characters!

Costa’s art style is adorable and reminiscent of many modern cartoons such as Steven Universe and the works of Studio Ghibli. They do exceptionally well designing unique characters that represent their character archetype. They balance simplicity with characters so expressive you can understand what is going on in the story without reading the words. 

Belle of the Ball is funny, heartwarming and a joy to read. While the story is tied up well, it leaves room for the reader’s imagination and the author to explore the characters’ future if they so choose. It fits into the First Second catalogue perfectly and shines amongst some of the other titles. I am interested to see more from Costa in the future!

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.


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