Description: Meet Bliss Cavendar, an indie-rock-loving misfit stuck in the tiny town of Bodeen, Texas. Her pageant-addicted mother expects her to compete for the coveted Miss Bluebonnet crown, but Bliss would rather feast on roaches than be subjected to such rhinestone tyranny.
Bliss's escape? Roller Derby.
When she discovers a league in nearby Austin, Bliss embarks on an epic journey full of hilarious tattooed girls, delicious boys in bands, and a few not-so-awesome realities even the most hard-core derby chick has to learn.
Stats: Young Adult Novel, 234 pages, Edition Published by Square Fish 2011, First Published as "Derby Girl" by Henry Holt and Co. 2007.
My Rating: 4 STARS
After picking up the another ill fated YA derby focused novel, I felt the need for some more derby action. Of course, Derby Girl/Whip It was just sitting so precariously on the library shelf that I just couldn't help myself.
This book manages to be a combination of a lot of things that I love dearly: Roller Derby, Austin, Texas, Quippy Misfit Girls, and YA Shenanigans. However, it also has a couple things I don't love so much: Bad YA Parenting, Bitchy Popular Girl, Music Hipsters, and The Boyfriend Bait and Switch. So maybe it's a bit of a surprise that I ended up enjoying this as much as I did. The positives about this book definitely won out over the what has annoyed me so much in the past. I found that following along with Bliss was a really entertaining ride.
Bliss is our main dame and she is fabulous. Her narration is honest and easy to relate. Her story really had a way of coming to life because she felt like complete character in every moment. Bliss had a great balance of wanting to just fuck it by going against the grain and yet still feeling like she doesn't want to let people down or lie to them. I could imagine a real teenager acting and thinking just like she does. This feeling also extended itself to all the side characters. Each of them was an exaggerated personality, but I could still imagine them as real people. They were over-the-top, but never crossed the invisible line of believability.
This feeling of realism was also carried by the setting of the story. I am of the opinion that anything can happen in Texas and Austin is like my own little Wonderland. Anything that is unbelievable can be believed if only it's in the vicinity of Austin, Texas. ...Well, that may not necessarily be true, but I've got nothing to prove otherwise! So there.
Due to this book I was inspired to look into my local scene and almost everywhere has their own set up. Although I would never dream of slapping on a pair of skates myself because I have no sense of balance or coordination I am really interested in going to a bout and seeing what the room is really like.
But getting back on track, I didn't step away from this totally glowing. The story had an issue with flow. There was a couple of short snippet chapters about a third of the through that felt more like a montage of events then part of the continuous story. It was in these spots of "Quick! Move this along!" writing where Bliss's narration and characterization suffered.
My second problem was in the form of our boy meat, Oliver. I won't go into his plot line too heavily, as to avoid spoilers, but what happens there was a pretty obvious bait and switch. If this was the route that the story needed to take I only wish that it was done in a way that matched the clever tone of the book instead of making it so obvious.
There was also my list of general dislikes from above, where I also mentioned a few other things like the bad YA parenting, the mean girl, and the music hipster-ness, but I found these aspects of the story to have been handled quite well. They worked within the world that the book was presenting and actually made the plot better in some places. Although I still want to see these things stay out of my YA, if it works then it works.
Despite my complaints I enjoyed this book overall for what it was. It was light and fun, with a side of sarcasm, and I liked reading almost every minuet of it. Right now I'm on some sort of Roller Derby kick and reading this book made me wish that more YA would focus in on this special little world of girls kicking butt and taking names. If anyone has any roller girl recommendations be sure to let me know.
Some general information about the book, Whip It is a special case where the novel was originally published under the name Derby Girl. In 2009, when the movie adaptation of this book was released, the title was changed to Whip It. Both books are exactly the same content wise, but sometimes the distinction can get confusing. However, now that I mentioned the movie I just have to include the trailer. Oh Ellen Page, will you never quit being so cute? I certainly hope not.