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Review: Roller Girl

This summer I challenged myself to read as much as I could. I made sure to keep my house inundated with books, which between the loads of reserves I placed at the public library and the many books I still have from Book Expo America, is not a problem. I also wanted to do a mix of novels and comics. So between each novel I read, I also tried a couple of comics. Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson is one of those in-between reads. I picked it up because it’s on the Brooklyn Public Library’s summer reading list.

Roller Girl
By Victoria Jamieson.
Dial Books for Young Readers. 2015. ISBN 9780803740167
PBK, $12.99. 240pp.
Grades 4 and up

RollerGirlCVRAstrid’s mother often takes her and her best friend Nicole to “cultural events,” and usually Astrid is bored. But for once her mother has introduced her to something amazing: Roller Derby, a skating sport in which one person from each team tries to pass as many members from the other team as possible to score points. Astrid falls in love and signs up for the three-week camp. She expects her best friend Nicole to join, because they always do things together, but for the first time, Nicole says no. Astrid goes anyway, but she doesn’t tell her mother that Nicole won’t be going. She also doesn’t tell her mother that Nicole’s mother isn’t taking her home and that instead she’s making the one-hour walk on her own.

Though Astrid loves the idea of Roller Derby, she isn’t all that good. And with hard work and determination, she still not all that good, but she gets better. She’s also growing apart from her best friend. She’s making new friends and bungling that up too. In the three weeks of summer, Astrid has a lot of growing and learning to do. While the book ends on a positive note, it’s not all tied up in a pretty bow at the end. She doesn’t keep her best friend, though they have a sort of truce. She improves in the sport, but she is by no means great at it.

This is a great coming-of-age story for fans of any of Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels. Middle-grade readers will be able to identify with the angst of trying to find the niche that identifies you—something that makes you stand out among the crowd. Readers can also easily identify with juggling friendships as interests change or just doing the wrong thing that threatens a friendship.

There are bright colors and lots of action in the artwork of Roller Girl. Jamieson captures much of the angst in nuanced expressions, such as the way Astrid slumps as she walks to her house or her fierce expression as she tries to improve on her blocking skills.

This is a great summer or all-year read that will thoroughly be enjoyed by middle-grade readers.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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