Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
This book is wildly, painfully cool. It has the power to make you feel excited and giddy and like strapping on roller skates and getting to it. Evidently, this is not an uncommon reaction, even among those who can’t skate, because Astrid, our heroine, watches one roller derby match and is hooked. She tries to persuade her best friend Nicole to join her at a skate camp over the summer, but Nicole is into ballet and boys. As the summer unfolds, the girls find the rift between is not one that can be easily mended.
Roller Girl is not just an exuberant tale of skating and determination, strength and athleticism, although it is all of those things. In fact, one of my very favorite things is just how bad Astrid is at skating. This is a book where someone wants to pick up a skill and has to work insanely hard at it. That’s just not something you see often, but it is how real life works. But maybe more importantly, it’s also a book that chronicles the very real and very difficult part of growing up when friendships shift and change. I adore that so much of what I read these days isn’t wrapped up with a pretty bow and an easy return to the status quo. Books like Roller Girl which tell the bittersweet truth about growing up are a much healthier reflection of true life, one that will keep readers company as they go through their own struggles.
Full Disclosure: I was a teenager in the 90s so in my world, Astrid and Zoe should be the cool ones, the in crowd, while boy-crazy ballet dancers Rachel and Nicole would be the too precious, too girly, not edgy enough to be in ones. The true wonder of Roller Girl is that in the end, readers should come away with the idea that all interests have validity, so long as you are true to yourself.
Age Recommendation: Grade 3 and up. It would have to be a strong third grade reader and usually the friendship struggles that are at the forefront of Roller Girl haven’t quite manifested yet, but even third graders would be wild for the coolness of roller derby. With young readers, I’d want to discuss some of the girl-stuff you see reflected in the book, like Nicole’s mother telling her that she should start watching her weight, and how Astrid is constantly slammed for not being girly enough.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A girl hopes to sit next to cute boys. A girl is in love with Hugh Jackman (this is a movie star crush). Girls kiss how to get a boy to kiss you.
Profanity – “jerks”, “morons”, “turd buckets”, “ass turd”, “shut up”, “screwed up”, “stupid”,
Death, Violence and Gore – It’s Roller Derby. People get knocked down. Astrid skins her knuckles.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Someone accuses Astrid of doing drugs. She does not do drugs.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.