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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Mall Hair Maladies is a young adult coming of age novel written by Kristy Jo Volchko. It was 1985 and, as far as thirteen-year-old Tanya was concerned, Pittsburgh was the center of the universe. She was in the eighth grade now, the last year of junior high, and next year she’d finally be there -- in high school -- where she’s heard that life really begins. For now, life was still pretty sweet. Earlier that year, Randi, a new and very cool girl from New York, had transferred into Seaton Junior High, and the principal had asked Tanya to give her a tour of the school. Randi was her sister from another mother, her complement. They both liked the same things, had incredible skill with fashioning the perfect hair-do and adored Madonna. Both girls came from single parent homes; Tanya’s mom was an environmental lawyer, and Randi’s dad owned and operated a nursery in town. Sometimes, Tanya wondered what would happen if their parents happened to meet… For now, though, the big excitement was the upcoming Madonna concert, and the contest a local radio station was holding to give out free tickets. Tanya knew they would get the tickets; they only had to be caller number ten once, and those tickets would be theirs. Yes, life was very cool.
Mall Hair Maladies is a gauzy and hilarious celebration of all things eighties as seen through the eyes of two thirteen-year-old girls. If you didn’t grow up in the eighties and have always wondered about the big hairstyles you’ve seen in the old class yearbooks and movies from that decade, you’ll delight in the step-by-step instructions Tanya follows to get every inch of hair teased, puffed up and lacquered in place before she leaves the house. I loved this book! While the story is about two young girls, and there is a fair amount of print devoted to fashion, hairdos and other girly stuff, there’s a much deeper, stronger thread running through Mall Hair Maladies. Coming of age stories can be run of the mill, or they can have the potential to achieve greatness -- more so, I think than any other fiction genre can. I always get a tingle, a feeling of excitement, of possibility, when opening a coming of age book. Think Huck Finn or the Outsiders or any one of the classic tales that fit the genre and make it special. That special something, the special sauce as it were, also makes this book rock. We transcend the hairspray and glitter and witness the unforgettable magic, adventure and mystery involved in attaining adulthood, in coming of age, seen here most vividly during Tanya and Randi’s concert night. Volchko’s characters are marvelous, and their escapades work so very well. Mall Hair Maladies is most highly recommended.