Roller Girl

by Victoria Jamieson
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section.

It’s the summer before sixth grade — middle school (gulp!) — and Astrid has things all Planned Out. She and her BFF, Nicole are going to hang out, go to derby camp, and have tons of fun!

Except. That’s not the way things happen. Nicole is off to dance camp, and is becoming someone Astrid can’t even relate to. And derby camp, well, let’s just say it’s a LOT harder than Astrid ever figured it’d be.

I picked this one up for K a while back, who really enjoyed it. But had some issues with it, especially with the friendship element. Why do things this happen, she wondered. It spawned a discussion about friends and change, and trying new things. So, I needed to see what it all was about.

And I loved it. I loved that Astrid was who she was, and while she changed — she realized that she was being a bit self-centered and not a very good friend — she still remained the same person she always was. I liked that it showed that things can pay off when you work hard at something. And that sometimes, it’s okay when other people take the spotlight. The drawing’s fun and colorful, and I love that Astrid is (at least) half-Puetro Rican.

It’s a sold graphic novel, and one that I know kids will love. (K did!)

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Demon Derby

by Carrie Harris
First sentence: “Once upon a time, whenever I saw a tall building, I wanted to jump off it.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged off the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: There’s some violence — demon attacks and all — and the content is a little mature for younger readers (well, A tried reading it and lost interest). It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Casey Kent has cancer. It’s in remission right now, but it’s forced her to re-think her extreme lifestyle. No more free jumping. No more trick boarding. In fact, everyone — from her parents, to her older sister, to her best friend, Kyle — is pretty much making sure Casey stays in a safe bubble.

And it’s driving her insane.

So, she decides to try out for one of the junior roller derby teams in town. Where she discovers that the coach (hot as he is) isn’t human. He’s a Sentinel, here to train people to fight demons. And it turns out that Casey, having been on the brink of death with her cancer, is the perfect hunter.

I was thinking this was Supernatural meets the roller derby and in many ways it is. There’s creepy demons trying to kill people, and this book will definitely make you rethink ever buying a bobble-headed doll again. But, it lacked (for me) a certain… oomph. The hot guy wasn’t terribly interesting, the danger not terribly exciting. It was all kind of … meh.

What I DID like, however (and what kept me reading) was that this wasn’t your ordinary cancer book. Sure, Casey battled cancer and it’s in remission. But she was made strong because of it, not in spite of it. It was because of the cancer that she became an awesome Hunter and was able to defeat demons. And I liked that perspective. I also like that the person you thought would be the Traitor didn’t actually turn out to be one. It was a nice touch.

I wanted to like it more than I did, but reading about Casey — who was strong and feisty and awesome — made it worth wading through the meh elements.