Book Review: Roller Girl

Roller Girl
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At first I couldn’t tell what was going on – just a bunch of skating, hitting, and falling.

Synopsis: Astrid and Nicole have been best friends since first grade, after an incident involving the class Mean Girl, Rachel. They do everything together. Astrid assumes this means that they’ll spend the summer following fifth grade together at Roller Derby Camp – Astrid’s newfound passion. She is stunned to discover that Nicole has other plans, namely, Dance Camp… with Rachel. With middle school looming and things changing all around her, Astrid rolls into the toughest summer of her life.

Review: A smart and funny realistic look at that stage so familiar to anyone who was once an almost-teenager, when friends start growing into their own people, and sometimes growing apart. Astrid speaks, thinks, and feels like a regular kid, someone you might know (or remember). She likes the way things are and doesn’t want them to change, but she ultimately faces those changes with good humor and strength. There are lessons in her story about growing up, accepting yourself and others for who they are, and working hard to achieve a dream, even when it doesn’t turn out quite the way you hoped, but it avoids didactic condescension easily. Totally charming.

Personal Thoughts: I happen to love roller skating, and I am a little sad that I didn’t encounter the whole roller derby phenomenon at an age/time/place when I might have joined in. I’ll just have to live vicariously through Astrid, I suppose. I loved everything about this book, from the painfully realistic depictions of the way pre-teen girls interact to the wonderful relationship between Astrid and her mother. (There’s a fourth-wall-breaking moment in which Astrid literally winks at the reader about an interaction with her mother that cracked me up.) I adore this book.

Recommend to: Fans of Raina Telgemeier… and pretty much any tween girl, actually. (Although I’d *love* to see some tween boys reading this one.)

Source: Checked out from my public library.

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Book Review: Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus by Alan Sitomer

Nerd Girls: The Rise of the DorkasaurusNerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I have a 3.73 grade point average and my body looks like a baked potato. My eyes are brown, my hair is brown, and sometimes when I snack on too many fig bars and run real fast in PE, I end up with brown streaks in my underpants, too. I’m not just un-cool; I’m anti-cool. I mean, I even know hot to properly use a semicolon in a sentence. What could be more pathetic than that?

With that opening paragraph, Sitomer immediately pulled me in to Maureen’s story, and then just as quickly pushed me back out. I hate to grammar nit-pick, but splitting an infinitive in a self-congratulatory comment about the proper use of punctuation is just unfortunate.

Unfortunate is a good word for Maureen. Her two best friends both moved away over the summer, so she is left alone facing the trio of eighth-grade bullies known as “the ThreePees” (for Pretty, Popular, and Perfect). She tries to stop them from tormenting Alice, a new student who happens to be allergic to every substance known to man, but they retaliate by uploading a humiliating video of her to YouTube. Her own older brother and younger sister think they whole thing is hilarious, and her mother is the sort of unrelentingly positive thinker who simply refuses to deal with the problems right in front of her. Nearly against her will, she bands together with Alice and another class outcast known as Beanpole Barbara to get back at the ThreePees by beating them in the school talent show. Now, if only they actually had a talent….

Nerd Girls is reminiscent of Benton’s Dear Dumb Diary series, minus the illustrations. The characters and situations in this book feel about as realistic as an episode of Glee. Both teachers and students are caricatures, and convenient twists occur that simply could not happen in real life. The dialogue rushes headlong past “witty banter”, with characters uttering lines that sound like they should be accompanied by a laugh track. Barbara and Sophia, especially, get stuck with the comic relief roles. Plot points come pell-mell, with little to no foreshadowing or subtlety. The big secret that Alice is hiding is revealed in an info-dump late in the book, and, oddly, still does not explain something that seemed like it should have been a big clue. Perhaps it will be explained in a later installment in the series, if readers still care enough about the flat characters to read them.

On shelves July 2011

Book Source: e-ARC via NetGalley

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