By Jen Wang. First Second, February 2018. 288 p. ill. ISBN 9781626723634 (paperback), $16.99.
Reviewed June 2019
Leslie Jankowski, Director of Library Services, Columbus College of Art & Design, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sixteen-year-old Prince Sebastian is under pressure to find a bride, yet he harbors a secret: he loves to wear dresses as the fashionable Lady Crystallia. Frances is a low-ranking seamstress with dreams of being a great designer. When Sebastian hires the talented and daring Frances as his own personal dressmaker, he finds a way to fulfill his dreams and dazzle the citizens of Paris. However, when Sebastian’s secret is threatened to be revealed, their clandestine arrangement begins to hinder Frances’s own aspirations. As Sebastian struggles against the expectations of his royal family and 18th-century society, Frances must decide if she wants to remain in her friend’s shadow, even as their friendship starts to become something more.
Author and illustrator Jen Wang’s fairy tale-like story conjures an opulent vision of Paris with some distinctly modern sensibilities. The emotional arcs of the characters are mirrored in every aspect of the gorgeous artwork; lettering styles and a soft and vibrant color palette shift in reaction to the characters’ moods. Special attention is also paid to the elaborate costumes of the French fashionistas. However, it is Wang’s character design that really stands out. Sebastian and Frances’s expressions and sense of movement may remind readers of the look and feel of Disney’s classic animated films, and it is easy to be pulled into the book’s fully realized world. Themes of identity, family, belonging, and being true to one’s self are explored in this charming graphic novel.
Recommended for all graphic novel collections, especially for teens, readers interested in LGBT and/or gender studies, or those looking for a different spin on the classic fairy tale.