Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Roller Girl

Roller Girl
by Victoria Jamieson

Middle grade novels with girl protagonists, who are authentic and not stereotypical, are on the rise. And what's more? Middle grade graphic novels with girl protagonists are on the rise as well with quite a few of them being memoirs of sorts -- like Smile, Sisters, El Deafo, and Roller Girl.

What happens when two BFFs don't like the same thing? And, what happens when one likes this thing too much and the other doesn't? Can they still feel the close kinship? Can they be there for each other even if they don't see themselves doing things together? How do you unfriend your BFF, and should you have to? If you do, is that so terrible?

Twelve year old friends Astrid and Nicole find themselves in this strange land of limbo one summer when they realize they are growing apart. A trip to the roller derby reveals more than their respective interest in this sport. While Astrid is gung-ho about roller derby and signs up for camp, Nicole prefers her ballet and would rather not venture into roller derby, with or without Astrid.

Things start getting complicated when Astrid makes new friends with her roller derby cohorts and Nicole hangs out with her ballet clique. The ins and outs of friendships during adolescence is explored. Astrid is not particularly good at roller derby and she has to work very hard to master basic skills and she has to do it without Nicole at her side.

With the intense backdrop of adrenaline-pumping high-energy sport of roller derby (which I have only read about and never witnessed in person), the author deftly explores the dynamics of friendship among pre-teens with acute depth and honesty.

According to the resident ten year old: Astrid was overreacting quite a bit and was blowing things out of proportion and complicating her life. Nicole wasn't being mean and till then Nicole and Astrid did whatever Astrid wanted to do, but when Nicole wanted Nicole and Astrid to do what Nicole wanted, Astrid didn't want to . Why did Astrid dye her hair without permission, she could've just asked her mom? But Astrid doesn't make friends easily so she probably feels bad about losing Nicole's friendship. In the end,  things work out for Astrid anyway.

As a skater with Rose City Rollers in Portland, OR, Ms. Jamieson has chronicled her adventures at Roller Derby Comics. The book draws from her personal experiences which explains how rich and powerful the moments are when we see it through Astrid: her excitement, self-doubt, frustration, determination, and commitment all ring so very true in this coming-of-age style story.

The illustrations are bright and colorful with lots of action. We loved El Deafo, Smile, and Sisters, and now the ten year old and I are just bowled over by this starkly candid story which has a satisfying ending, even if not the happily-ever-after kind.

Free eBook on the Making of Roller Girl

Look Inside the book at Penguin Random House

[image source: author Jamieson's website]

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