One side effect of Raina Telgemeier’s dominance of the graphic novel market for young people is the need to be able to answer the question, “What do I read next?” I recommend Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward, but Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl is also quite popular with that audience.
Astrid is best friends with Nicole. They go together to a roller derby match, and Astrid loves it, but Nicole isn’t so sure. They’re growing apart, anyway, in other ways, with Nicole more interested in boys and starting to hang out with a more traditional girly girl. Things come to a head when Nicole goes to dance camp for the summer instead of the roller derby camp Astrid attends.
The storytelling and art aren’t as accomplished as work from those other two authors, but the straightforward presentation — lots of plain block panels, with events driven through dialogue and faces either straight on or in profile — make the book easy to read for those not particularly experienced with comics. The occasional metaphor panel, as when someone’s really thirsty, so they’re drawn in a desert, liven things up as well. (A particular favorite was Astrid envisioning images for the names of different-colored hair dyes.) And it’s a thick book, over 200 pages, making for a substantial, long-lasting read.
Jamieson knows her stuff, having been a derby girl herself, and a big chunk of the book is dedicated to learning what it takes to be a good skater and team member. Astrid is the newest girl and has to demonstrate a lot of strength and fortitude, aided by inspiration from her favorite derby player, to keep going. Like the storytelling, the messages aren’t expressed subtly, but they’re things many young women need to hear.
This is a really good-hearted book that shows the virtue of hard work and determination. And it captures well the way friendships might naturally change as kids grow up and figure out what’s important to them.