Fiction, Graphic Novel, January 2020

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki. September 3, 2019. DC Ink/DC Comics, 201 p. ISBN: 9781401283292.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Outspoken, rebellious, and eccentric fifteen-year-old Harleen Quinzel has five dollars to her name when she’s sent to live in Gotham City. Harleen has battled a lot of hard situations as a kid, but her fortune turns when Gotham’s finest drag queen, Mama, takes her in.

And at first it seems like Harleen has finally found a place to grow into her most “true true,” with new best friend Ivy at Gotham High. But then Harley’s fortune takes another turn when Mama’s drag cabaret becomes the next victim in the wave of gentrification that’s taking over the neighborhood.

Now Harleen is mad. In turning her anger into action, she is faced with two choices: join Ivy, who’s campaigning to make the neighborhood a better place to live, or join The Joker, who plans to take down Gotham one corporation at a time.

From Eisner Award and Caldecott Honor-winning author Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Steve Pugh (The Flintstones) comes a coming-of-age story about choices, consequences, and how a weird kid from Gotham goes about defining her world for herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Violence


Book Trailer


Booklist (July 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Harley Quinn is notorious for her allegiance to the Joker, but how did she start on her path to chaotic villainy? That’s what this origin story tackles, starting when Harleen Quinzel arrives in Gotham City, where she lives with Mama, a larger-than-life drag queen living in her late-grandmother’s building. As Harley settles into her new school, she makes friends with smart, justice-oriented Ivy, and together they lock horns with John Kane, the scion of Gotham’s hottest real estate developers, who are swiftly gentrifying neighborhoods like Harley’s. Tamaki’s take on Harley Quinn is remarkably nuanced. Harley’s motivations are largely noble, though her actions are far more volatile than those Ivy chooses, like protest or civil disobedience. That, coupled with Tamaki’s exceptional talent for writing snappy dialogue, makes for deeply multifaceted characters. Pugh’s beautiful artwork carries that dynamism out, as well: his realistic figures are shaded with plenty of depth and represent a refreshingly realistic array of distinct body shapes and sizes. This appealing entry point to the DC universe presents a captivating, vivid portrait of a so-called villain.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
Tamaki’s (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up With Me, 2019, etc.) version of Harley operates with a moral compass while still being bubbly and outgoing. Harley has been sent to live with her grandmother in Gotham City. She discovers her grandmother has died, but apartment manager Mama, a white, gay man who also manages the local drag queen bar, lets her stay. Harley finds her place among a colorful “mutiny of queens” and makes a new best friend, Ivy Du-Barry. Ivy, who is biracial (Chinese and black), carries the bulk of the load when it comes to educating Harley, who is white, about intersectionality, representation in media, and the gentrification of their neighborhood. Harley’s happiness doesn’t last—Mama receives news of an impending eviction and crosses paths with the Joker. Through flashbacks, shaded in orange, readers get a deeper understanding of what motivates her to fight for what she loves. Pugh (Supergirl, Vol. 3: Girl of No Tomorrow, 2018, etc.) uses a mostly gray and black color palette with background bursts of scarlet. When characters are truly in their element, their signature colors are used: a red and black scheme for Harley, shades of green for Ivy, and the Joker’s signature purple. The fast-paced plot enhanced by Harley’s trademark style of speech examines the impact of gentrification, and Harley’s character development follows a redemptive arc that will have readers rooting for her and her colorful family. A riotous read. (Graphic novel. 13-18)

About the Author

Mariko Tamaki is a Canadian writer living in Oakland. Works include New York Times bestseller This One Summer and Skim with Jillian Tamaki, Emiko Superstar with Steve Rolston and the YA novel (You) Set Me on Fire. This One Summer was the winner of Printz and Caldecott Honors in 2015 and received the Eisner award for Best Graphic Album (New).

Her website is

Teacher Resources

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass on Amazon

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass on Barnes and Noble

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass on Goodreads

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass on LibraryThing

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass Publisher Page

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