Favorite Quote: When I was in kindergarten, my teacher had a poster that was supposed to teach you about feelings. The feelings were all simple ones, like ‘happy’ and ‘sad’. They didn’t tell you about feelings that mixed together like a smoothie. I felt better…but not completely. I was still a little mad at Nicole…but I felt like I did something wrong too. I was happy that I had talked to her…but sad that everything still felt so different. I was shad.
Plot: Astrid and Nicole have always been best friends until the summer before 7th grade when things begin change and feel different. Astrid becomes enchanted with roller derby and can’t wait to try out derby camp. She is shocked when she discovers that Nicole isn’t at all interested and would rather attend dance camp. Now she has to do derby camp alone and it’s about a million times harder than she thought it would be.
That bold, vibrant cover has been catching my eye ever since it hit the shelves, and I thought it could be a great match for our graphic novel club so I was thrilled when the girls voted on it. Even better, this was our last meeting of the semester and it was great to end it on such a high note!
The girls all seemed to enjoy and respond to this one. Astrid is almost exactly their age/grade and is going through many of the things they are going through – shifting friendships, search for identity, complicated emotions. etc. Even my two graphic novel haters rated this 4 and 5 stars respectively.
I also really loved it. The artwork is bright and engaging. The story is a simple one and, as one girl pointed out, a little predictable, but it’s so earnestly told and feels very true. Nothing was ever overblown, trite, or unrealistic. The conflicts were all portrayed in a believable way. Astrid is just as much (maybe more) to blame for the breakdown of her friendship with Nicole. Also, Astrid absolutely stinks at roller derby and doesn’t get miraculously that much better over the course of a couple weeks at camp. But being good at roller derby isn’t the point. The point is about pursuing your interests and sticking with something that’s important to you even when it’s hard. And the end was open-ended and little bittersweet – a lot like life!
I also really like that this novel broke down the rules of roller derby into something I could understand. I’ve seen one bout (and so had some of the girls), but this made it even a little clearer.
There are a few extremely minor problematic moments in this book that parents may want to be aware of before they share/read with a kid. First, there is a mean girl who has a particularly crude nickname for Astrid – Ass-Turd. Second, Astrid is dishonest to her mom on a couple of occasions. She lies about getting rides home from camp and walks instead. She also bleaches and dyes her hair blue without her mother’s consent. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think it’s critical that kids read books about other kids making mistakes so this isn’t an issue for me, but I like to be aware so that I can make these issues part of a discussion.
A potentially fun movie to pair with this would be Whip It. I’ve seen it and I think it’s a great movie that touches on a lot of the same themes this graphic novel explores. I opted not to share it with this group because there are just enough not-so-minor problematic moments (drinking, sex, dishonesty) that I didn’t want to risk it. Common Sense Media (whom I trust, but tends to be a bit more conservative than me) recommends it for 14 and up. I’d say 12 and up for a mature kid with parental guidance.
All in all, this is a near perfect graphic novel to share with a group of tween girls. I only hope I can find something just as good for next semester!
Title: Roller Girl
Author: Victoria Jamieson
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: sports, friendship, coming of age