Jamieson, Victoria. Roller Girl.

NY: Dial, 2015.

Astrid isn’t your ordinary twelve-year-old, interested in dance classes like her best friend, Nicole — or even in boys, much. She wears a lot of black, reads astronomy books, and suffers through her mother’s “cultural enlightenment evenings.” This time, though, the ECE means tickets to Portland’s local female roller derby, and Astrid is instantly mesmerized.

Tough girls with crazy “derby names,” controlled violence, and speed — it’s exactly the role model she didn’t know she was looking for. She starts a few days later in the team’s summer roller camp, determined to become a champion jammer. Of course, it would help if she could skate without falling down. And if she were bigger and more of a natural athlete. But Astrid is determined and practices constantly, undeterred by scrapes and bruises and being continually overpowered by older skaters.

Parallel to this is the discovery that Nicole, a very nice person, really does prefer dance to the derby. And she begins hanging out with another girl Astrid has detested since First Grade. What do you do when your best friend deserts you, and you can’t bring yourself to tell your mother (who thought Nicole was attending the camp, too), and you’re simply lonely? Well, you can make new friends, and she does, in the person of Zoey, an equally oddball girl a bit older than Astrid — though they have problems, too.

The simple line-art exactly suits the subject and this delightful and true-to-life book about the tribulations and complexities of growing up would be a terrific recommendation for girls Astrid’s own age. I’ll be suggesting it to my thirteen-year-old granddaughter, who can actually skate.

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