cover image Derby Girl

Derby Girl

Shauna Cross, . . Holt, $15.95 (234pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-8023-0

Debut novelist Cross, a screenwriter and former roller derby girl, retreads well-worn YA themes as a path to a roller-derby plot line. A main character feeling too cool for school and her plebeian town? Check. Two parents who just don't understand? Check. A budding romance that leaves a best friend left in the dust? Check. Here, the teen angst is embodied in 16-year-old Bliss Cavendar, a blue-haired, Chuck Taylor–wearing indie rebel living in a tiny Texas town of country music–loving beauty-pageant fans. Yearning to escape the suffocating boredom, Bliss and her best friend, Pash Amini, crash a roller derby event in nearby Austin. The girls are entranced by the glammed-up skaters in heavy makeup and fishnet stockings who shove and elbow their way around a track. Bliss soon lies about her age, becomes a derby girl, meets a cute boy and learns several unsurprising life lessons. Despite being formulaic, the novel shines in describing the dashing world of roller derby, where the players are hot and have nasty names like Dinah Might, Eva Destruction and Princess Slaya. When Bliss describes watching “girls dive on the track, leap over one another, pile on the infield for brawls, fly over the rails into the crowd (more than once!)... and yet, you can tell they're having the time of their lives,” her naked enthusiasm for the edgy, underground sport injects some energy into an otherwise labored tale. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)