Once Astrid’s mom introduces her to roller derby she is hooked. Her best friend, Nicole, is not convinced and it is clear that they are growing apart. Astrid is left facing the summer alone after Nicole decides not to join her at roller derby camp, but to sign up for dance camp instead. Desperate still to go, Astrid neglects to tell her mother that her lift home has disappeared and goes it alone. She finds it tough at first – it is a rough contact sport, she has no friends and she has a long trek home to navigate. She perseveres, negotiating independence and friendships, while discovering a lot about herself.
Victoria Jamieson brings passion about roller derby – she skated herself as Winnie the Pow – and has a keen eye for teen friendships and the difficult transitions they face. The excitement, physicality and teamwork involved in roller derby is key to the story, but you don’t need to know anything about roller derby to enjoy the book – it is all explained. Be warned though, it may prompt searches for local teams (here is the UK link) and and new interest in skating.
The book is written as a graphic novel and works brilliantly in that format. The illustrations feel fresh and capture the pace and excitement of roller derby and the uncertainty of the dilemmas Astrid faces. There is spikiness and humour to both the text and illustrations and it is very good example of how a graphic novel carries a nuanced story with a lot of material to engage the reader. This is one of the only books that my daughter has read again and again and is a firm favourite in our house.
Jamieson has lots of interesting material on her website, including a downloadable e-book about how she wrote Roller Girl and some comics about her experience of roller derby. She also has a short video about drawing.