79 pages 2 hours read

Victoria Jamieson

Roller Girl

Fiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2015

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Summary and Study Guide


Roller Girl is a fictional graphic novel written by Victoria Jamieson. Jamieson is a passionate roller derby girl, who goes by the name Winnie the Pow when she plays. Jamieson felt that roller derby served as a strong representation for boldness and strength for women and wanted to create a character who discovered that in herself. Roller Girl was originally published in 2015 by Dial Books for Young Readers. It received the Newbery Honor Award in 2016.

This guide uses the 2015 Dial Books for Young Readers edition of the graphic novel.

Plot Summary

At the beginning of the summer, before sixth grade and the start of junior high, Astrid and Nicole are best friends. They do everything together and Nicole is a very supportive and kind friend to Astrid. Astrid’s mother regularly carts the girls around to various activities or what she calls cultural enlightenment, and one of these excursions involves going to see a roller derby game. Nicole takes little interest, finding it scary, but Astrid is absolutely amazed. She is especially enthralled by the star player, Rainbow Bite, who is the jammer of the team and scores the points. Immediately, Astrid wants to sign up for roller derby camp. She asks Nicole to join her, but when Nicole reluctantly declines, the summer unfolds in a way Astrid did not expect. Nicole also begins hanging out with a girl named Rachel, who openly bullies Astrid whenever she encounters her.

Astrid dreads starting roller derby camp without Nicole but lies to her mother about Nicole attending and goes anyway. Most of the girls seem older than Astrid, aside from one girl named Zoey. Astrid is immediately thrown into drills, and because she can barely skate she finds them extremely difficult. Astrid wants to give up after repeatedly falling over and finally making her way around the rink one full lap, but her coach, Heidi, pushes her to keep trying. Astrid was supposed to get a ride home from Nicole’s mother each day, but since Nicole went to ballet camp instead, Astrid would rather walk home in the sun than tell her mom. Although she still feels like giving up, Astrid notices that Rainbow Bite’s locker is in the same locker room she uses. She decides to leave her a note asking for advice. When Rainbow Bite replies with words of encouragement telling Astrid to become tough, strong, and fearless, Astrid feels a renewed sense of hope.

Heidi has an idea to help Astrid improve her skating by taking the girls for an outdoor skate. Having walked home every day that week, Astrid is used to the heat and is almost able to keep up. She loses control going down a hill but remembers the way she was taught to fall small and lands in a bush without injury. She feels proud of herself and ready to succeed, and her teammates encourage her as well. Astrid also starts becoming closer with Zoey, even going to her house to let Zoey dye her hair blue. Astrid slowly improves at roller derby, including hitting, blocking, and falling. She still has trouble with stopping, but she’s becoming more and more confident each day. Astrid decides she wants to be a jammer and begins working even harder by skating home after practice and skating around the house.

Astrid’s life begins to fall apart when she overhears Nicole and Rachel talking about her negatively. She explodes at them, embarrassing herself. Later, she becomes upset when Zoey is chosen to be a jammer at the upcoming event and Astrid is not. Zoey takes this to heart and does not talk to Astrid for weeks. When Astrid’s mother finds out Astrid lied about Nicole, she is upset at first. However, when Astrid is honest about her emotions and the confusion she has been experiencing, her mother understands. She makes Astrid come with her to the library after camp every day but does not otherwise punish her. Astrid uses the time to reflect on the type of person she has been over the summer and in the past with Nicole and comes up with a way to make things up to Zoey.

When the day of the bout arrives, Astrid apologizes to Zoey and helps her calm down, as she is nervous about how she will perform. Astrid also has the crowd and Rainbow Bite cheer for Zoey, and all of this allows Zoey to forgive Astrid and see that she has changed. Astrid also lets go of Nicole and becomes satisfied with her new life with Zoey and the roller derby team. She even gets to speak to Rainbow Bite in person and finds out that Rainbow Bite sees her as a hero for taking hits for the team. Astrid sees herself as a changed person who has learned how to be a true friend and discovered a side of herself she never knew existed. She looks forward to many more roller derby bouts in the future.