I am not widely familiar with graphic novels, but I decided to pick up Roller Girl a few weeks ago — a new release by Victoria Jamieson. I do a lot of reading and writing about roller derby, and I wanted to support a fellow female derby writer. I am so glad I did, because this book is about a lot more than my favorite sport. If you’re interested in a quick read about young female friendships, complete with lovely and clever art, look no further. I read this gem in less than a day – and the second I finished it, I ordered a second copy to be sent to a girl friend.
Roller Girl starts out with 12-year-old Astrid and her best friend Nicole going to see a Portland Rose City Rollers bout with Astrid’s mom. They are in junior high, and have been friends since grade school. Astrid falls in love immediately with roller derby and signs up for the Rose Buds, a junior skate camp. She assumes Nicole will also sign up, since they do everything together and always have. Things don’t go as planned, as the two girls develop diverging interests and end up spending their first summer apart. This book does a great job showing the changes young female friendships undergo as we grow up, and the result is heartbreaking and beautiful.
Astrid meets a new friend at skate camp, but learns the hard way that true friends support each other and have each others’ backs – even when we might be feeling envious of their success in some areas. Jamieson conveys that she hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a pre-teen and all the hurdles that come with it.
She also does a great job showing the love Astrid’s mom has for her stubborn, strong-willed daughter. Their heart-to-heart later in the book had me welling up with tears, to my surprise. Her mom wants her to be happy and be herself. She tries to be the best guide she can be toward those end results, while still allowing Astrid some new-found independence.
Like I said, I am pretty new to graphic novels, but I think this was a great introduction to the medium. Jamieson’s illustrations are whimsical and sweet, and I look forward to picking up other graphic novels in the future — especially ones by other women. Roller Girl is a treasure, and I am so glad I read it.