Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
|Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A brightly-coloured, yet very subtle, look at a young lesbian crush – this book deserves many of the plaudits it's attained.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: May 2017|
|Publisher: Candlewick Press|
|External links: Author's website|
It's camp. It's supposed to be fun.
Well excuse me for not having the time of my life.
That simple piece of dialogue is the key to this autobiographical graphic novel. Why is Maggie not happy at camp? Forget the way she's isolated by being a sleep-walker, and ignore the fact she's from a different state to every other girl around, and practically only there to obey her mother's family tradition – she's all of a sudden become an ace shot on the rifle range, and can boss the Backstreet Boys-themed talent performance. But those aren't enough for Maggie to feel settled and like she's enjoying her summer, and anyway they do come with their own problems. No, the bigger problem is something else – the fact that she seems to be falling in love with one of the counsellor campers, there to look after the welfare of the younger inmates – being potentially a lesbian is a shock to our narrator.
This is, I guess, one of those admirable, worthy books, about big and strong themes of import, but it would mean nothing if it weren't an enjoyable read. This certainly is that. With the side-issue of a rifle certificate as the end goal, it marks itself out quite early on as something distinctive and not something one reads every day. Let's face it, as some characters hint, sapphism can hardly be unique or unexpected in such a rarefied atmosphere as summer camp, even one where all the rules are obeyed in such a straight-edged manner as this one. This memoir cannot exactly be thought of as having a unique subject, and tales of girls not fitting in, and not getting what they thought they wanted out of life, must be ten a penny.
What makes this a distinctive book? Well, there's the ease in which the story is brought to us. There's no arch nostalgia about the boy bands mentioned, the sense of humour comes effortlessly, and these girls do seem like full-bodied girls, and not mouthpieces or token types. There's also the artwork, which is really commendable too – not just for the simple way in defining and separating the characters, however identical their costumes. The pencil palette belies its almost pastel feel in the impact it carries, feeling as it does just as full-bodied and rounded as the characters, and this book is neither too arty for the young audience it deserves nor too broadly coloured so as to alienate the passing adult. (If anything, it could have been given a look-over, though, as page 76 shows people sitting underneath a tree, and the above-earth roots make them look as if they have reptilian tails.)
That brings me on to the target audience – this is definitely a teen publication in feel and intent, but equally I got a heck of a lot out of it. It's a composed, measured and clever piece, one that never talks down to you, but offers an interesting spin on an oft-repeated narrative. You certainly don't have to potentially live this story to enjoy it.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
As regards this kind of theme with an even more stand-out form and format, we recommend The Space Between by Meg Grehan.
You can read more book reviews or buy Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash at Amazon.com.
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