How I didn't straighten my hair (and other life lessons) by Angela May George

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Omnibus Books, 2018. ISBN 9781742999555
(Age: Upper primary - lower secondary) Themes: bullying, friendships, Greek culture, family. Dora is trying to find "her thing" but, disappointingly for her Greek family, Greek dancing isn't for her. 17 year old sister Athena, is a born dancer, tall, slim and beautiful with the composure of an Ice Queen but her "thing" is ballet. She is not at all like 13 year old Dora, whose unmanageable frizzy hair and impulsive behaviour seem to rule her life. Dora loves her Greek culture, especially the food cooked by her grandparents; but it can also be embarrassing, like when her Yaya and Popou play loud music and dance in their garage. Ethan, a popular boy in Dora's year, lives next door to them and doesn't seem to mind, he also seems to like Dora which she finds difficult to believe as some girls in her group have said they are awarding her the trophy for the ugliest girl in their year. Dora is reluctant to tell her parents about the bullying as her dad lost his job and they have enough worries. Her sister tells her to follow the high school rules, which include keeping her head down and not talking about anyone else but things come to a head when Genevieve, the girl who has been bullying her, stomps on Dora's hand breaking it. In hospital Dora meets Lucy, a girl her age suffering from Juvenile Diabetes. Dora finds she has a talent for making friends and that she is ambidextrous so she goes back to school able to keep up with the work. However Genevieve's brother knocks Dora down and her parents are angry at the school's handling of the bullying and decide to change schools. The change turns out to be a good thing for both Dora, who is no longer fearful at school and makes some new friends, and for her sister, whose boyfriend attends the new school. Athena buys Dora's silence with the promise of a hair straightener but her loyalty is tested when their parents catch Athena secretly meeting her boyfriend. The incident shocks the family and Dora is caught in the middle. Loyalties to friends are also tested as Dora juggles her new friends (and her attractively straightened hair) and the need to keep in touch with old friends, especially Ethan. Things seem to work out in the end with family and most friendships intact. The novel is a bright and funny trip, with a 13 year old finding her place in the world; negotiating culture, family, friends and first relationships. Suitable for upper primary and lower secondary girls.
Sue Speck