My youngest niece, M.C., is turning twelve in April, and I was searching for gift ideas when I stumbled across an announcement of the (then) forthcoming publication of a graphic novel, Roller Girl, with a picture on the cover of a young girl in a roller derby type outfit with rainbow socks and braided blue hair. Jackpot! M.C. loves graphic novels, the main character is twelve, and she will be as (or more) excited as I was just by the cover. I should probably warn her mother that hair dye may be needed.
When I read that the author, Victoria Jamieson, is a member of the Rose City Rollers Roller Derby League and that the graphic novel was based on her experiences, I was even more sold. The Rose City Rollers are based in Oregon, where my sister and her family live, and having a local connection made this an even better choice.
Title: Roller Girl
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), New York, NY, 2015, 240pgs
Review copy source: purchased on Amazon.com the day of publication (and shipped to my work address, to prevent M.C. from having any idea).
Roller Girl is the story of Astrid and one pivotal summer, when she and her long-time best friend have a falling out. Astrid wants to go to roller derby camp, but Rachel is going to ballet camp. For the first time in years, they are doing things separately and forming new friendships. This is a great story to show young girls that growing as a person and making new (or retaining old) friends isn’t always easy.
In Astrid, we have a realistically flawed main character. She does not always make the right choices, she isn’t always the better person. She lies to her mother and is sometimes mean spirited towards others, but there are consequences and regrets. Without these, I would not be giving this book a positive review (negative reviews have been the fate of middle grade books without these).
The artwork is colorful and dynamic, greatly enhancing the story. Flashbacks, dream sequences, and flights of fancy are included and also add a great deal overall. The font is dark and always legible in the speech and thought bubbles, as well as captions, with the individual frames outlined in black. The story is sequential, easy to follow, and written with a warmth and authenticity I have rarely seen in graphic novels.
Definitely a 4 out of 5 star book. Recommended if you enjoy graphic novels, roller derby, sports, stories about growing up, and especially if you are twelve years old and like blue hair. Oh, and Zoey has great taste in imaginary boyfriends. That Hugh Jackman is a cutie.