In the first few pages of Glitter Kiss (2012, Oni Press) by Adrianne Ambrose (writer) and Monica Gallagher (art), main character Tinka is chided by her mother for wearing too much makeup and for her skirt being too short — the first because boys don’t like girls who wear a lot of makeup and the second because boys like short skirts too much.
That’s basically Tinka’s world when the book starts — her appearance, her attitude are all treated to be for the consumption of boys and not for herself. Welcome to the world of every teenage girl.
Tinka is a typical teenage girl for the most part — Gallagher gives her flowing hair and pouty lips, but she’s not treated to be any particular beauty. Ambrose writes her as average — she’s neither anonymous or overly popular. She’s just one of the girls who filled the hallways of your high school, dealing with harassment from boys while still desiring to be with one.
Once her secret romance with Jason is discovered by his soccer teammates and he cruelly dismisses her, Tinka gets revenge, although accidentally.
Due to a thunderstorm unleashing the high school goth girl’s latent witchy powers and a tube of glittery lip gloss, Tinka gains the ability to give these boys a taste of their own medicine. She turns them into girls.
Jason manipulates Tinka into kissing him one last time and he wakes up as a girl. Tinka receeds into the background for a bit as Jason tries to make sense of his new reality. The book turns out to be nearly as much about him as it is about her.
There’s a party where people play spin the bottle and Tinka kisses a few more boys, all before realizing what’s going on.
And the boys get to learn exactly how their behavior affects girls when they face it themselves. (Ambrose doesn’t shy away from showing the cruelty of other girls, too, though.)
Gallagher has fun with the boys being perplexed by their different bodies. She plays with posture — when the boys stood tall and strong, they hunch as if trying to hide themselves as girls. Movement and facial expressions are exaggerated (Jason’s mom, who is not nearly as confused by her son’s transformation as she should be, dresses him in a ridiculous outfit for a party). While most of her characters are attractive with their manga-inspired big eyes, she draws a wide variety of body types. Her world feels inclusive beneath the glamor of her art.
Ambrose’s writing is snappy and funny and always unexpected. Her dialogue is smart but feels natural and scenes transition easily between slapstick and heartfelt. There’s a definite playfulness to what she’s doing here and her message never drags it down. I love watching these fictional boys transform — both literally and figuratively — in their understanding of women. She also allows Tinka to learn how to be comfortable with herself, as a girl, and the conclusion to her story (and Jason’s) feels appropriate and satisfying.
Maybe something of a strange complaint, but with its title, all-female creative team and pink cover, this book won’t get into the hands of the people who would probably get the most out of it — teenage boys. While it’s a delightful story for teenage girls (and people who once were teenage girls), I do wish more teenage boys could be taught that girls are people too.
Still, I have some hope some smart teenage girls will leave this lying around where their brothers may pick it up. Even without that happening, it’s still an intelligent and witty glimpse into the pressures all teenagers face in trying to relate to each other.