Do I typically read graphic novels? Not really. I want to admit that from the very beginning of this review! I might average about two or three a year. And I usually just read the ones that are getting Newbery buzz or actually do get a Newbery or Newbery Honor. Roller Girl IS a graphic novel. It IS a Newbery Honor book for 2016.
Roller Girl is a coming-of-age graphic novel set mainly in the summer as the heroine, Astrid, goes to Roller Derby summer camp. Astrid is a bit angsty that her friend, Nicole, is no longer her best-best friend who wants to do every little thing with her. For example, Nicole does NOT want to go to roller derby camp, she wants to go to dance camp. She also wants to start hanging out with and dating boys. Astrid? Not really her thing--at least not yet. There is some jealousy mixed in with frustration. It isn't just that Nicole is interested in different hobbies. It is that Nicole is spending time--a lot of time--with other people. And one of those people she's now spending a LOT of time with is her nemesis, Rachel. Rachel and Astrid have some ancient history--way back in second grade, I believe?!
Astrid is confused and frustrated and moody and angry and DETERMINED. Roller derby is, by far, the hardest thing she's ever done--ever attempted. And it does not come easy. She is not a natural on skates--not by any stretch of the imagination. And it is physically, emotionally, mentally challenging to her. She WANTS it so bad that she pushes, pushes, pushes to improve. It is because she struggles that I believe she is so relatable.
I also liked how Astrid begins to make other friends outside of Nicole, and, that she is given the opportunity to find her own thing, to become her own person. True, part of that journey involves dyeing her hair BLUE. But having blue hair isn't the "worst" of her crimes--in the eyes of her mom. It is the fact that Astrid is less than honest. Still, I think the two are depicted as having a mostly-positive relationship. Which is nice to see in fiction. That Moms and daughters can get along and talk through their differences.
Astrid also finds a mentor--of sorts--in Rainbow Bite. Readers do learn a good bit about the sport of Roller Derby.
So overall, I enjoyed the characterization. I enjoyed the coming-of-age aspect of it. And despite the fact that it is a graphic novel, and, despite the fact that it is sports-focused, I did enjoy it. I read it quickly, in one setting.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews