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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a realistic fiction graphic novel for grades 4-8.

Astrid and Nicole have always been best friends. Astrid’s mom likes taking them on ECE’s or Evenings of Cultural Enlightenment, which usually bore the living daylights out of both girls. But when they go to see a roller derby, Astrid is hooked and wants to be a derby girl. Nicole is horrified by all of the girls acting like animals and going flying out of the ring. She would rather do ballet. Astrid tells her mom that they want to be in roller derby camp and her mom signs Astrid up.

Astrid does not tell her mom that Nicole said no and signed up for ballet camp instead with Astrid’s arch-nemesis, the “bossy jerk,” Rachel, who is always picking on Astrid. Astrid assumes Nicole will change her mind, but when she doesn’t, the girls stop speaking.

Now friendless, and talentless at skating, Astrid must endure roller derby camp alone with all the bigger girls who are more experienced skaters. Still, Astrid’s dream is to become the jammer of the team, the only skater who can score points.

Readers will both laugh at and sympathize with Astrid as she learns the hard realities of persevering to learn a skill, dealing with friendship issues, and the consequences of lying to your parents (since Astrid’s mom thinks Nicole’s mom gives her a ride home after practice and Astrid is too proud to tell her mom the truth, she walks home every day, and almost gets lost the first day). Astrid is super loveable. She is hilarious and sarcastic and mostly has a bad attitude, but readers will still relate to how hard middle school is and the honest mistakes that kids make at this age trying to grow into their own self.

I love all of the realistic friend issues in this book and how Astrid thinks the right way to solve each one is exactly what you wouldn’t want to do (but you could totally see a 12-year-old making the same exact mistakes). Astrid is so spunky and sure of yourself, you have to love her. I also like the idea that you don’t have to be a perfect and nice person to keep friends. Everyone makes mistakes and is selfish sometimes. That doesn’t mean you can’t fix it. There is great character development here!

Jamison’s drawing a bright and colorful and the facial expressions and body language are hilarious and add to the text (obviously, since it’s a graphic novel). Who knew there were so many ways you could slump over or roll your eyes or crash land out of teen angst?

Read-alikes: Smile (Telegmeier), Lumberjanes (Stevenson), Chiggers (Larson), The Babysitters Club graphic novels