The Backstagers by James Tynion IV

32898210I have been on a graphic novel kick lately. Graphic novels are great because they can still have wonderful stories with amazingly deep characters, but they are decidedly more fun to read. At least in my opinion. I just love looking at the art in graphic novels.

The graphic novel I’m talking about today is The Backstagers by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Rian Sygh. I loved it and couldn’t wait for the second volume to come out. I found the ebooks online through my public library’s Hoopla subscription, and it was so good! I still have to read the last issue, though, since it’s not available on Hoopla yet. Hurry up, Hoopla! I need to know what happens! If you loved Lumberjanes then you will love The Backstagers as well. I am hoping and praying for a Jumberjanes/Backstagers crossover so hard! It would be so epic!!!

The story starts out by introducing new kid Jory. He’s just transferred to an all boys private school and his mom is telling him he needs to find an after school activity to fill up his time. He decides on the drama club, but after going on a mini adventure backstage and finding out that the actors in the drama club are “the worst” he decides to join the Backstagers. But the Backstagers aren’t your normal stage crew. Nope. The backstage area of the school is a supernatural wonderland filled with strange creatures, moving tunnels, and wondrous rooms. It’s all very dangerous and also quite exciting!

There is an overarching mystery to be solved over the course of the series which involves the missing Backstagers from 1987. They disappeared on opening night and were never heard from again. Some of the Backstagers, the Stage Managers included, think it’s just an urban legend to keep the newbies from wandering too far into the tunnels on their own, but Jory thinks there is more to it, especially after his new friend Sasha goes into the tunnels on his own and returns with a new friend.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodread because, honestly, there was nothing I disliked about this graphic novel. The art is amazing, the characters are amazing, and the story is amazing. I felt a connection with the characters because I was a theatre kid in high school and as an adult I’ve transitioned into being a backstager myself. One of the things I loved about this book is that it talks about LGBTQ+ themes without talking about it, if that makes sense? Like there is a transgender character who transfers from the all girls school to the all boys school but they never really talk about it. It’s not a big deal, it’s just there treated as normal content (because it is).

Sorry this is such a short review but there really isn’t much more I can say other than OMFG I LOVE IT, without giving the plot away. It’s a relatively short series with only 8 issues available, so the plot moves really quickly. So yeah, there you have it, Internetland! Go read The Backstagers!

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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

rollergirlOkay, Internetland, I’m going to share a little known fact about myself here. I play roller derby. Well, sort of. I’m still just a Freshmeat (roller derby slang for new player), but I do play! My derby name is Dewey Decimator and my number is 025. If you’re a librarian, you’ll get the jokes. The reason I’m telling you this is because I’m reviewing Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson today and in my opinion as a player of the sport I can tell you that this book is a pretty accurate representation of roller derby! Not like some other forms of pop culture out there *cough*Whip It Movie*cough*…

Roller Girl is a graphic novel about a 12-year-old girl named Astrid discovering roller derby. The story starts out with her mom taking Astrid and her best friend, Nicole,  to a roller derby bout. At the bout they find out about derby skate camp and Astrid is very excited and can’t wait for her and her Nicole to go together. Unfortunately, Nicole doesn’t want to go to derby camp, and goes to ballet camp instead. The story follows Astrid as she stresses over not being good at derby, starts drifting away from her best friend, starts making new friends, and in general just discovers who she wants to be.

There are a lot of important themes in this book that young adults will find relevant. Friendship is a big one. Astrid and Nicole are drifting apart and Astrid is making new friends, but she’s having a lot of anxiety about it as well. Coming-of-age and self discovery is another important theme. Astrid is trying to discover who she wants to be as she prepares to start junior high. Bullying is another theme that plays a lot into the story. Astrid has been bullied basically her whole life, and continues to be bullied by “the popular girl”. I feel that roller derby is a sport where like-minded people can gather and feel accepted for who they are and that’s why Astrid seems to find herself on the track.

This book does a really good job explaining the sport, but sometimes I felt it was a little too much. I’m sure it’s just because I already know about the sport that I think this, and I know for someone who isn’t familiar with the sport that they would find the explanations very useful. This book also accurately describes how difficult roller derby can be. I don’t think my legs stopped hurting for a whole month after I started roller derby. It’s a very physically demanding sport. Great exercise though! If you’re interested in roller derby I encourage you to do an internet search for your local team! Most teams are online somewhere these days. Also visit the Woman’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association website (https://wftda.com/) for more information on the sport and a list of leagues! Or if you’re in Canada, go here: http://www.crdinfo.ca/

Just for fun, here’s my derby headshot:

025-dewey-decimator