Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Current Mood: artistic
Current Song: The Schuyler Sisters from the musical Hamilton
Twelve-year-old Astrid is often dragged to "enriching" events by her mom, who calls them "evenings of cultural enlightenment," aka ECEs. Thankfully, Astrid's best friend Nicole is usually by her side, making it possible for her to endure the opera or poetry reading or whatnot. One night, Astrid's mom brings them to the roller derby. Astrid is immediately taken by it; Nicole is less enthused. When the girls learn about a roller derby summer camp, Astrid can't wait to sign up, while Nicole, who has been taking ballet for years, would prefer to stick with dance camp. There, she hangs out with Rachel, a former classmate that Astrid cannot stand. For the first time in years, the girls are separated, and the distance between them grows wider as the summer goes on.
The first week at roller derby camp, Astrid falls down - a lot. She is frustrated and bruised and she wishes she was as skilled at the sport as the other girls. She starts writing anonymous notes to Rainbow Bite, an adult derby player she admires who shares the same practice space. Bite responds to the notes with advice and support, keeping Astrid's spirits up with the going gets tough.
And Astrid toughens up: she makes an effort to get better, to get stronger; she puts in extra practice time; she learns more about the sport and about the skills necessary to be a good player and a good teammate. Even though she's not the best one on the team, she's having fun, and that's what's important. Along the way, she makes a new friend in her teammate Zoey and makes some changes in her own life.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a realistic and refreshing read. If this graphic novel was a person, I would give it a high-five. Bonus points for the diverse cast, characters of all different colors and shapes brought to life by lively full-color illustrations that show both action and emotion. Many characters have strong spirits, including Astrid's mother, a Puerto Rican single mom who works hard to put a roof over her daughter's head and food on the table. She works as a librarian at a college so that her daughter can attend that school in the future. Astrid has hand-me-down clothes and rents some of the required sports equipment rather than buying it outright, and these things are never regarded as shameful; I deeply appreciated that. I also loved the roller derby names (Rainbow Bite was my favorite, because the original Rainbow Brite rocks!), Astrid's determination and focus, and Zoey's love for musical theatre.
I recommend Roller Girl to all ages, especially for tweens who are making the transition from elementary school to middle school. If you liked Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels like Sisters, Smile, and Drama, you will definitely like Roller Girl.
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