Sparkle by Lakita Wilson

Living in Maryland, Nova and Sparkle Moore are sisters who both love dancing, modeling, and acting. Thanks to their mother’s backdrops, props, and posing techniques, the duo has social media followers and are on their way to being influencers despite being only fifth and sixth graders.

Along with her best friends, Taryn Wood—an advanced level ballet and tap dancer—and Rae Ferrell—a true, creative artist, Sparkle attends the Arts Academy whose motto is “dream big; anything is possible.”

As the three friends vow to steer clear of bad energy and to explore their true gifts, they also have to navigate peer politics and bullies. Sparkle lives for moments when her mother is happiest and believes in her. Mother had allowed her stutter to snatch away her dreams just as her Hollywood career began to sprout, and Sparkle is determined to make her mother’s dreams new again through her daughters’ successes.

However, when Sparkle’s eye lashes, eye brows, and strands of hair begin to fall out, the stares, negativity, and rumors of ringworm and then cancer come out of the wood work. Sparkle experiences how people run with half the story like they know the complete and total truth. With an alopecia diagnosis, Sparkle is overwhelmed with lost hope and dwindling confidence levels. In one of her lowest moments, Sparkle’s father says: “Life is all about cycles, Sparkle. Even when everything feels snatched from you, there’s always the possibility that what you lost will return again—you just have to keep hoping” (103).

Another key mentor for Sparkle is Ms. June, the Arts Academy’s Drama Director, who tells Sparkle; “Nothing lost on the outside can ever steal the true gifts that live within us” (188). A second piece of advice comes in words dispensed during rehearsal: “If your body isn’t communicating as much as your mouth, you run the risk of losing the audience’s attention” (234).

Fifteen-year-old Joy, a member of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), talks not only about hair loss but about the loss of friends, confidence, and identity; “We lose the kid we used to know” (217). Losing a part of herself that everyone once loved is devastating for Sparkle. No one fully accepts the “new Sparkle” since they are too busy feeling sorry for the former character that has disappeared.

As Sparkle steps tentatively but officially into her bald era, she realizes that her mother will never have the chance to cheer for her because of commercials, brand posts, and the school drama presentation. As she drops out of popularity and counts things out, Sparkle hopes Mother will eventually find something else about her to cheer over.

Ms. June, however, refuses to give up on Sparkle and her potential for stardom. She believes that a bold and fiery entertainer lives inside Sparkle, if only she is willing to call her out. Despite Sparkle’s best efforts to go unnoticed, her drama teacher approaches her with an offer: “You can waste away in the shadows of other people’s opinions. Or you can change the face of any role, any stage, any performance of your choosing” (242).

Too embarrassed to go onstage bald and to shine a spotlight on what embarrasses her the most, Sparkle isn’t sure. Besides learning to embrace her hair loss, Sparkle has to learn that friendships are not about being perfect but about trying your best and learning along the way.

Readers of Lakita Wilson‘s novel Sparkle will not only encounter a poignant and hopeful story about self-perception and social pressures but receive an honest look at the impact of a life-changing medical diagnosis. 

  • Posted by Donna

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