A graphic novel adventure about a twelve-year-old girl who discovers roller derby right as she and her best friend are growing apart.
Sometimes even the best of friends grow apart. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a middle grade graphic novel that touches on this and other issues close to home for many kids. Astrid and her friend Nicole have done everything together for years, but that all changes the summer before middle school. When Astrid falls hard for roller derby, she signs up for a summer camp. The problem is, Nicole would rather go to dance camp. Worse, Nicole suddenly starts hanging out with a girl Astrid can’t stand.
Derby is tougher than Astrid expects. The older girls can all skate faster than her, hit harder than her and pull a scarier “war face” than her. They’re nice, though, and soon a new friendship starts to bloom. With encouragement, Astrid begins to get the hang of tricky moves like stopping and turning.
Things only get worse with Nicole, but Astrid grits her teeth and focuses on derby. She has to prepare for her first bout, which means proving to her instructors that she’s good enough to take part. It also means she has to choose a derby nickname for herself. The one she eventually picks is satisfying and appropriate.
Many readers will connect with the themes of fragile friendships, perseverance and self-identity. Jamieson’s art is bright and colorful, befitting the flashy sport of roller derby. The text and pictures work together perfectly, with every panel capturing expressive faces and body language.
This Newbery Honor Award winner is well worth a read, especially if you’re about to embark on a new hobby or a new stage of your life. Although it is geared toward older children, everyone can find plenty to love in this story.