Review of "Roller Girl"

Review by Catherine Baty

Jamieson, Victoria. Roller Girl. 2017.

On an “Evening of Cultural Enlightenment” Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend Nicole to see roller derby. Astrid is awestruck! Nicole… less so. After the bout, Astrid’s mom tells her about a junior derby camp. Of course Astrid thinks that Nicole will go to derby camp with her, they do everything together, but derby is not Nicole’s thing and she chooses to go to dance camp with Astrid’s old bully, Rachel. Astrid lies to her mom, saying that Nicole is going to derby camp too and that her mom drives them home after camp, but she skates home instead. Soon Astrid makes a new friend at derby camp, Zoey, who is also pretty new to the sport. They spend a lot of time together, and Zoey dyes Astrid’s hair blue! After weeks of practice, the girls have a chance at their first bout! Astrid really wants to be a jammer, but Zoey gets the position instead. Astrid’s jealousy puts a strain on their friendship. When Astrid’s mom runs into Nicole’s mom at the store, the lie comes out. Astrid is no longer allowed to be home after camp by herself and must spend the afternoons at the university library where her mom works. At the library, Astrid figures out a way to apologize to Zoey, just in time for the bout. After a tough match, Astrid and Zoey’s team win the bout and celebrate with milkshakes.

This graphic novel was printed with vibrant, full color illustrations which aid in context understanding and plot development. The characters spring to life from the page. Though the parents, and other adults are secondary characters, they are not flat. The moms act like moms. In response to Astrid being surprised that her mom planned something fun for them to do during the “Evening of Cultural Enlightenment” she says, “Your old mom is all right from time to time.”. It does not feel awkward or fake. I think that parents reading this would relate to Astrid’s mom and the balance she tries to strike in her parenting. The main character, Astrid, is wonderfully crafted. She’s selfish, a little narcissistic, and she’s learning. Her actions drive the plot, and the theme of growing up shines through in the lessons she learns. Victoria Jamieson’s art and writing come together seamlessly. Her use of color brings out the emotional states of her characters. The sense of wonder when Astrid first sees the roller derby women, is obvious. It is difficult to balance art and text in graphic novels. One cannot get in the way of the other without negatively affecting the story. Jamieson gets it on the nose. Her art serves the story at every moment as extensions of the text and speech. Nothing comes off as unnecessary or excessive. Advanced readers will love how the art tells more of the story and reluctant readers will not feel bogged down by a wall of text. The story is neatly broken up into chapters in a way that slower readers can feel okay with setting the book down if they need to, as well. I highly recommend this book for 4th and 5th grade readers.

Newbery Honor 2016

“A touching look at the ups and downs of following one’s dreams, in addition to introducing readers to a relatively unknown sport.” – Contributor, Booklist on March 1, 2015

“Jamieson captures this snapshot of preteen angst with a keenly decisive eye, brilliantly juxtaposing the nuances of roller derby with the twists and turns of adolescent girls’ friendships. Clean, bright illustrations evince the familiar emotions and bring the pathos to life in a way that text alone could not.” – Contributor, Kirkus Reviews starred on December 15, 2014

“Jamieson’s full-color cartooning has a Sunday comics vibe, and her pacing is faultless. Astrid struggles to do right as she tries to understand her soured friendship with Nicole, and she narrates her own failures with heartwarming candor.” – Contributor, Publishers Weekly on January 26, 2015

Gather with other Middle Reader graphic novels like,

  • Telgemeier, Raina Smile ISBN 9780545132053
  • Bell, Cece El Deafo ISBN 9781419710209
  • Chmakova, Svetlana Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School) ISBN 9780316381321
  • TenNapel, Doug Bad Island ISBN 9780329863838

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