Jamieson, Victoria. Roller Girl. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015. 239 pages. Hardcover $17.89, ISBN 978-0-525-42967-8; Tr. $11.09, ISBN 978-0-8037-4016-7; PLB $17.06, ISBN 978-1-48988-662-0
TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES ABSOLUTELY
Genre: Sports story (Graphic Novel)
Part of a series? No.
Once again, I find myself wishing that I could do roller derby (alas, I am terrified of falling over and breaking my glasses, and my balance on skates of any kind is laughable). Jamieson’s protagonist Astrid discovers roller derby one night when her mother takes her and her best friend Nicole out for an Enlightening Cultural Experience (ECE). Unlike previous ECEs when Astrid has been forced to watch an opera, go to a modern art museum, or otherwise improve herself, Astrid instead gets to watch women on roller skates slam into each other to win points. She immediately plans to attend the Rose Bud roller derby summer boot camp with her best friend Nicole … until Nicole’s dance class friend (and Astrid’s number one enemy) Rachel starts talking about plans for dance camp. Confident in the knowledge that Nicole won’t desert her for Rachel, Astrid is shocked when Nicole ditches her and roller derby for a summer of dancing on pointe. Astrid’s summer doesn’t get much better when she finds out that roller derby is HARD … falling more often than she actually skates, Astrid feels lost, until her favorite jammer Rainbow Bite replies to her anonymous notes asking for advice. Could Astrid make new friends? Can she become a superstar roller derby girl? Or is she just a Rose Dud?
Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:
I could not put this graphic novel down. I raced through it, eager to read more roller derby names, follow more plays, and get to know Astrid and Zoe (her musical-obsessed roller derby friend) better. I further appreciated Jamieson’s nod to the intense athleticism required for ballet, too. While it is awkward that Nicole chose Rachel and dance over Astrid and roller derby, Nicole’s preferred activity is not painted with the “girly girl” brush that her other choices are. Instead, Jamieson shows the painful side effects of dancing on pointe — bloody toes and bandaged feet, not unlike Astrid’s roller derby injuries. While Nicole’s interest in boys and shopping are more typically feminine than Astrid’s pursuits, their sports are not as different as one might assume. Readers will also appreciate the diversity on the page and the excitement of the sport.
Note: This didn’t affect my reading of the graphic novel, but one parent reviewer on Common Sense Media was appalled by the use of profanity in the rude nickname Astrid is given by the school bully (who refers to her as “Ass-Turd.”) While I didn’t find this to be a huge problem, it might be for some folks, so I should remain aware of the potential reactions to the nickname.
Curriculum Ties/Library Use:
A fun book club activity for this book could be designing a roller derby team — names for players, team names, and a logo. We could also potentially watch clips on YouTube from a roller derby bout, after I’ve had a chance to preview some to ensure there aren’t any inappropriate signs in the crowd or language caught on the microphones. (Ideas from myself)
Grade Level: 5-8
Awards and Starred Reviews:
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 4/1/15
Horn Book Guide starred 10/1/15
Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/15
Kirkus Reviews starred 12/15/14
Newbery Honor 2016
Publishers Weekly starred 1/26/15
School Library Journal starred 12/1/14
Beach, A. (n. d.) Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/roller-girl
Natsmom22 (screen name). (2016, Feb. 12). Profane and inappropriate for its target audience (blog comment). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/roller-girl
Kirkus Reviews. (2014, Dec. 6). Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/victoria-jamieson/roller-girl/
Publishers Weekly. (2015, Jan. 26). Roller girl (Review of the book Roller Girl.) Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8037-4016-7