Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review >> Derby Girl

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross -- September 4, 2007 -- Hardcover, 240 pages, Henry Holt and Co. (9780805080230)

"I don't know how it happened or what sort of backroom deal went down, but apparently I'm living in a small Texas town with two culturally clueless impostors for legal guardians, when I just know my real parents are out there somewhere."

Bliss Cavendar feels like an outcast in the small, middle of nowhere town of Bodeen, Texas. With her love for Indie rock, thrift store clothing, and dyed blue hair, she doesn't exactly fit in with the other beauty pageant girls, and of course she resents the fact that her mother is trying to force her into the same lifestyle. Then Bliss stumbles across the hardcore, "be your own hero" sisterhood of roller derby, and she finally feels like she belongs. So she straps on some Barbie skates and joins the Hurl Scouts, gaining the nickname Babe Ruthless and learning that sometimes you have to make waves to make your own path in life.

Poor Bliss. Like most teenage girls, she is going through that awkward time in your life when the whole world seems to be working against you and all you want to do is be your own person and make your own way in life. And, of course, hook up with a cute guy in the process! Bliss and her bombshell best friend, Pash, don't quite fit in with the football-obsessed and beauty-pageant manic crowds that inhabit Bodeen, Texas, and spend every waking moment dreaming about the day when they can quit their jobs at the local fast food hub, the Oink Joint, and experience life outside of teased hair and the ten-pound pulled pork sandwich affectionately named "Squealer."

"'As much fun as Roller Derby is to watch, it's even more fun to play.'"

One fateful night, the girls decide to make a clandestine trip to Austin to watch a roller derby game after pocketing a flier from an alternative clothing stores. They immediately realize what they've been missing when they seem to have stumbled upon the Mecca of cool, and Bliss falls head over heels for both the sexy fishnet-rocking ladies known as the Hurl Scouts, and the equally sexy and mysterious musician, Oliver. So she does what any rebellious teen would do: lies to the league to let her audition for the team, lies to her parents about her whereabouts so she can practice on said team, and starts dating Oliver, against the pleas from her new teammate, Malice in Wonderland, to never date a musician.

"...I know I'm sarcastic and defensive and I make a joke out of everything and am highly resistant to anything that reeks of sentimental corniness, but I'm giving you my heart anyway..."

Derby Girl was a surprisingly well-written story that I think could really resonate with a lot of different people. I know every person at one point or another has felt like they're just the world's biggest outcast- take it from a girl who dresses in Victorian style fashion for fun! Bliss's story is every young girl's story, and her road to realizing what makes her happy really spoke volumes. The obstacles she faced along the way are also true to life, such as having to lie to your friends or family, sacrificing one relationship for another, facing heartbreak, and opting to walk the path less traveled even if it means facing ridicule from others. Her commitments and her drive to succeed as both Bliss Cavendar and Babe Ruthless offered a unique balance not often seen in YA fiction, but worked extremely well for this story. And let's face it, this book makes me feel like I can skate like a bat out of hell, too!

"'I'm all for raising hell...but sometimes you gotta know when to make peace.'"

I must confess, I actually saw the film Whip It! before reading this novel, so I don't want to base my entire judgement of the book comparing it to the movie. However, one thing I did find interesting was that Bliss from the movie and Bliss from the novel were actually very different in that book version is slightly more selfish in regards to some of her actions. I found that Derby Girl actually shared a lot of similarities with Novala Takemoto's book Kamikaze Girls which portrays a young lolita girl who longs for a fanciful life outside the farming town of Shimotsuma, the timeless "fish out of water" fairy tale. Overall, I found the writing to be consistent and the story was actually very touching, although it was not without its flaws. I feel like Bliss should have been a bit more level-headed, I guess I am biased in my belief that artsy girls tend to be more put together. She made a lot of stupid mistakes throughout the story, and there were parts where she was the world's worst friend towards Pash, who is nothing but supportive and loving to her. When the main character is as unbalanced as this (a problem I shared with the book Unleashed) I tend drop the rating significantly. I still loved the book, however, and am a huge fan of the fashion inspiration I derived from it!

"If I have learned anything, it's that life is way more confusing than you think."

If you liked Derby Girl, you might also like:

Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto
Going In Circles by Pamela Ribon
Missin' by Novala Takemoto

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