Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unlike a lot of American school stories that are focused around the ‘middle grade is hell’ theme, ‘Roller Girl’ is a gust of fresh air following a young girl’s dream to become a pro at her new hobby – roller derby. The graphic novel is written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson, who plays the sport in real life. Honestly, I had no idea what ‘Roller derby’ was until this book and the creator does a fantastic job of explaining the skating-based sport through her colorful illustrations.

Plot overview – When twelve-year-old Astrid signs up to train for an exciting new skating sport over the summer, she simply assumes her best-friend Nicole would do the same. The two girls do everything together, so their friendship gets strained when Nicole chooses ballet class over roller derby, what’s worse, Nicole is warming up to Astrid’s nemesis. Alone at the roller derby camp, Astrid is the only ‘newbie’ but is determined to ace the sport and participate in a public event.

Astrid looks and behaves like a regular kid and doesn’t try to ape grown-ups, she is sweet, naive and funny. For example, she thinks coloring her hair like all the other girls at the camp could be the secret to getting better at skating. My favorite character however was Zoey, a spunky feisty girl Astrid befriends over the summer and the two together try to get better at the game. Zoey is sweet, supportive and has a whole bunch of annoying brothers at home, which makes her a lot more grounded than most kids her age. Their blossoming friendship is cute and comes with its own set of minor challenges. Victoria Jamieson does slip in some mild drama, like the tension between the protagonist and her childhood best-friend Nicole, but it never gets far-fetched.

The artwork is simple, cute, engaging and the pace moves smoothly, without the many bumps and falls Astrid experiences along the way. I just kept turning page after page and probably got done with the 200+ pages novel in less than two hours!

It’s a 4/5 from me.

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