Roller Girl: A Book Review

Hello, hello!

How are things, friends? My current state is studying galore – it seems this trimester will have me knee-deep in schoolwork until June! Nevertheless, I felt a book as wonderful as Roller Girl deserved a review before the month came to a close {i.e. I took a healthy study break to finish it up}. What are you currently reading?

Roller GirlTitle: Roller Girl
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Published: March 10, 2015 by Dial Books
Pages: 240
Genre: Middle Grade / Graphic Novel / Contemporary
Source: Library / Paperback
Series: Nope!

For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a heartwarming graphic novel about friendship and surviving junior high through the power of roller derby. 

Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole… and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl. {Goodreads}

Every few months or so within the book community surfaces an article that questions the value of young adult literature. Such essays ask: Why are we teens are no longer reading the classics? How could we consider Twilight or other bestsellers worthwhile reads? Do we even go to the library anymore? {That last question always makes me laugh given my daily trips to the local branch}. As a firm believer that each and every book, regardless of intended audience, has value, there’s nothing that could irk me more, but sadly, the YA genre isn’t alone. Graphic novels also come under question, to which the genre’s critics argue that they are not true literature.

For every skeptic, I wish I could hand them a copy of Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. Her first book for the middle grade audience, it proves that when it comes to the middle grade audience, graphic novels can not only be good, but, arguably, among some of the very best. This delightful publication rolled onto the scene last spring and has since picked up not only widespread acclaim and legions of fans, but also a Newbery Honor – all indications of an excellent and worthy read, indeed. To put it simply, Roller Girl is a winner for kids, kids at heart, and the kid-lit community. What more could you ask for?

Roller Girl tackles a conflict long known in the MG genre: fights between friends, growing further and further apart, albeit in an adorable and vibrant new story. Astrid and Nicole have been best friends since elementary school, where Nicole stood up for her newfound friend against a group of mean girls. But as they grow up comes middle school, a tumultuous time for friendships, and soon it’s no longer Astrid and Nicole, two peas in a pod, but Nicole at dance camp and Astrid at roller derby, nervous and lonely. Astrid is a protagonist to remember, perhaps best for her realism; she reads like a tween, mood swings and all. Too often do I see main characters put on pedestals, acting as moral role models for young readers, that I appreciate the development of Astrid’s faults, such as her stubbornness and jealousy, in addition to her strengths. Her character is multi-layered, making her all the more relatable of a narrator.

I hate to focus on the issues or buzz-worthy topics that Roller Girl touches upon, as if they were merely checkboxes for the author to tick off, but when they’re integrated so well into the story, it would be a mistake not to. A sampling: Both the young adult and middle grade genres sorely lack stories that star characters in sports; you can then imagine that Roller Girl, which brings the grit and passion associated with roller derby into the spotlight, is a welcome addition. The call for more diverse representation in literature continues, but even so, characters’ backgrounds, race, or heritage need not always be the center of the story. Astrid fits this bill; her Puerto Rican background doesn’t define her so much as her interest in roller derby and her coming-of-age experiences do. Lastly, it’s not explicitly mentioned within the book, but Roller Girl certainly celebrates strong and empowering women, a fact displayed by the variety of inspiring females in Astrid’s life.

Just as commendable as the character and plot development is Jamieson’s artwork. Each frame serves a purpose, demonstrating action or emotion, while the bright splashes of color invite you into Astrid’s world, whether that’s along the streets in sweltering summer heat or in the roller derby arena on the night of the first bout. Graphic novels are quick to read, but more importantly, they’re fun to read, as they bring another element of interest to the reading experience. Jamieson takes full advantage of the format, invoking readers’ five senses {think the whoosh of players racing by, the cool comfort of air conditioning, the hustle and bustle of a busy carnival} through the immersive power of art.

When I first put Roller Girl on my TBR list a few months back, I little idea of what was in store, nor did I expect to so quickly fall in love. Jamieson ends the story on the perfect note, though, I won’t lie, I wouldn’t say no to yet another adventure of Astrid and the other derby girls on her team. My wishes for a second book may be far-fetched, but my praise isn’t: it truly is a five-star read, making it one of many I hope to encounter this year.

Have an amazing Wednesday!
Bella

Psst. In the graphic novel mood? Here are a few to try! I love, love, love Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Raina Telgemeier’s Drama is a personal favorite, and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks, is a good time.

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3 thoughts on “Roller Girl: A Book Review

  1. Why not give a graphic novel a 5 star? If the storytelling is strong, this is just as viable a medium as anything else.

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  2. […] Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson | “Just as commendable as the character and plot development is Jamieson’s artwork. Each frame serves a purpose, demonstrating action or emotion, while the bright splashes of color invite you into Astrid’s world, whether that’s along the streets in sweltering summer heat or in the roller derby arena on the night of the first bout.” […]

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