There is a surge in middle grade graphic novels featuring female protagonists that I am totally into. Some of these books are memoirs ( Smile, Sisters, and El Deafo) and others are fiction (Drama, Chiggers, or This One Summer). Fiction or non-fiction, they are all fabulous, and now there is a new kid on the block that I couldn’t love more if it was covered in vanilla icing and dipped in sprinkles.
Astrid loves roller derby and decides to spend the summer at roller derby camp, hoping to become a jammer like her hero, Rainbow Bite. But her long-time friend Nicole does not share Astrid’s love for derby, and Astrid finds herself alone at derby camp struggling to stay on her feet and complete basic drills. But then she is befriended by Zoey and things start to look up, until the two girls compete for the same position.
Roller Girl perfectly captures that moment when you realize that you are growing apart from your best friend. This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially if that friend makes new friends that you don’t particularly like or understand. Girls especially put a lot of stock in the Best Friend. But as Mindy Lahiri would say, “Best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier.” I love that Astrid not only makes cool new Roller Derby friends, but finds a way to keep Nicole in her life. The ins and outs of friendships make up a big portion of the drama tween (girls especially) deal with and Roller Girl gets to the core of these issues.
Plus this book is about roller derby, an adrenalin-laced, kick-ass female driven sport. I’ve always had a soft spot for roller derby and freely admit to loving Drew Barrymore’s under-appreciated film adaptation of Whip It. The idea of thousands of young girls on the cusp of adolescence discovering the power, camaraderie, athleticism and fun of roller derby through this book warms the cockles of my heart. Skating does not come easily to Astrid, and there are lots of bumps and bruises along the way. Roller Girl also demonstrates- in the most fun way possible- that learning a skill is hard and perseverance has its rewards.
Victoria Jamieson is now on my list of girl crushes, alongside such greats as Celine Sciamma, Tina Fey, Emily Lockhart, and Raina Telgemeier. Not only does she write fab middle grade but she herself is a Roller Derby girl and a great artist. I mean look at this amazing magnet she designed:
I want big things for this book because it’s bright and funny and empowering and all-around wonderful. Plus it begs the question, what is YOUR roller derby name? I can never decide between Alice Munroad Kill or Surly Temple…thoughts?
Roller Girl is available now from Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.