Friday, July 10, 2015

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I've seen several books promoted as read-alikes for Raina Telgemeier's Smile and sequels, but I've never found one that I would recommend as a read-alike - until now. Don't get me wrong, plenty of those other recommendations are great reads on their own, and fans of Telgemeier might be induced to try them. But I need something that desperate fans will grab in 30 seconds or less, as that's about how much time I have in the summer, with hordes of children demanding books now!

It all starts in 5th grade when Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend Nicole on a surprise visit to see...roller derby! Astrid is in love and immediately starts dreaming of being a roller derby star, just like her new hero Rainbow Bite. Of course, Nicole will come along too....but it turns out Nicole has other plans and roller derby isn't exactly how Astrid imagined it would be. Astrid's dreams start falling apart - and so does her friendship with Nicole. After some growing pains, there's a satisfying, if realistic, ending.

The artwork is colorful and realistic, with lots of expressive faces and a contemporary, digital feel. It will quickly remind fans of Telgemeier's distinctive work, but it stands well on its own. Jamieson's art has a finer line than Telgemeier's more blocky style and there's more distance in the panels, showing more of the setting and interaction between the characters. There are also sequences explaining roller derby that look hand-drawn and add a cute, friendly feel to the story.

Aside from the obvious interest if you have Telgemeier fans, this stands well on its own. It's a familiar story about grade school friends who are growing into different people and have new interests and ideas, but the roller derby adds a unique twist to the story. It seamlessly blends advice about sticking to something you love, even when the going is tough, along with growing and changing friendships.

Verdict: This will fly off the shelf with the cover alone, but combine that with "it's like Drama but with roller derby!" will make it a hot item (even if the kids aren't sure what roller derby is). I'm probably going to wish I'd bought more than one copy. Everyone else should buy copies too! Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780803740167; Published 2015 by Dial/Penguin; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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