When Astrid’s mom takes her to watch her first roller derby match, Astrid knows right then and there that she’s meant to play derby. After her mom signs her up for roller derby summer camp, Astrid assumes this will be the best summer ever, until her best friend Nicole tells her she’d rather go to dance camp than roller derby camp. Upset and alone, Astrid finds herself in the often-frightening position of trying something new on your own. Nicole has been a constant in her life forever, how will she ever make it through the summer without her?
I’m typically not one for graphic novels, but Roller Girl may have just converted me to the genre completely. The novel was illustrated and written by Victoria Jamieson, and the first thing I realized was her talent was equable in both the design and structure of her novel. The story and illustrations flowed together seamlessly, proving that Jamieson is just as strong a writer as she is an illustrator - which I am so appreciative of.
Astrid is my new hero - she shares her fears and frustrations that come from learning a new sport with a humorous honesty that brings her character to life. Not only does this book highlight a great sport, but it also makes it accessible to the reader who may not know much about roller derby (like myself). By the end of the book I was ready to strap on skates and take some hits!
However, this book is about so much more than roller derby. Astrid struggles to find herself after she and her best friend begin to drift apart. During the summer before junior high, nonetheless! This story highlights the emotional confusion that comes of growing up, learning to change, explore different passions, and make new friends. As Astrid learns this for herself, she’s then able to extend that same emotional grace to those around her.
My absolute favorite part of the novel was the fact that Astrid doesn’t strap on skates and become the best athlete of the group. No, she STRUGGLES to get better. She puts in lots of extra work to make even the smallest amount of progress, and even when she does progress, (mild spoiler) she doesn’t get the position on the team she thinks she deserves. I believe it’s important to show that sometimes, even when you have tons of heart and put in hours of training, you don’t always win. Winning isn’t the message of this story - learning to persevere when disappointment comes and knocks you off your feet (literally in Astrid’s case), is the life-blood of Roller Girl. Astrid is a heroine who demonstrates the power of getting back up and trying again, and again.
In the end, this book filled to the brim with action, obstacles, and a diverse cast of girls who all embody facets of strength. Sometimes life doesn’t go how we planned. Sometimes even our best friends will let us down, but as Astrid learns who she is, she gives the reader the same permission to be brave and take risks; learning that often our challenges can lead to the best personal discoveries of all.