Honor Girl

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Honor Girl Book Poster Image
Absorbing, bittersweet, same-sex camp romance.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some facts about riflery and getting a Distinguished Expert certificate from the NRA.

Positive Messages

Being in love doesn't make you happy; it makes it impossible to be happy. Maggie hears some vague and thinly veiled homophobic remarks from a few people, but her friends are unconcerned that she's fallen for a girl. She also worries that her "freakish" feelings will become common knowledge.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maggie's a thoughtful, if confused, teen. She's a good friend, doesn't tattle on someone who threw a book at her, and makes good decisions when it comes to how she treats others. Love interest Erin is enigmatic but handles the counselor/camper romance well. Maggie's friends are loyal and supportive. Mean-girl rivals express petty jealousy, but Maggie and Libby have one good conversation that hashes some things out.

Violence

Blood from a cut is shown over several panels but isn't gory. There's a slap in the face and a reddened cheek afterward.

Sex

Crushes, feelings of attraction, being in love, and hand-holding illustrated or narrated. Two fantasy kisses illustrated. Tampons and being a sexual prisoner mentioned in jokes.

Language

Strong language is infrequent but includes "f--k" and variations, "s--t," "bitch," "dickheads," "a--hole," and "Jesus Christ" as an exclamation. "Penises," "jiz," and "twat" used once or twice each.

Consumerism

A few food, soda, beauty, and clothing products mentioned to establish mood or character.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Speculation that young adult counselors are drinking and that one is drunk. "Stay off crack" joke refers to candy. Maggie realizes counselors smoke when off-duty and is nonchalant about it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Honor Girl is a graphic-novel memoir. Author Maggie Thrash (a staff writer for the online magazine for teen girls Rookie) looks back at her first love at an all-girls summer camp when she was 15, where she falls in love with 19-year-old counselor Erin. There's a lot of talking and thinking about being in love, crushing on someone, and feeling attraction. And there's a lot of confusion because Maggie didn't expect to fall for a girl. She hears some thinly veiled homophobic remarks from camp personnel, but her friends are unconcerned about the same-sex issue and are supportive. Hand-holding is illustrated several times, and a couple of fantasy/dream sequences show two girls kissing. Strong language is infrequent but includes "f--k," "s--t," and "bitch." 

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byGeorgia Clark March 25, 2018

What's the story?

Maggie's been spending her summers at Camp Bellflower since forever, mostly because both her mother and grandmother went there too. The summer she's 15, she finds herself falling for 19-year-old counselor, Erin. First love is a rollercoaster ride, and Maggie experiences ups and downs as she tries to figure out her feelings. One thing that helps is the rifle range, where she's able to clear her mind and get to within two targets of a Distinguished Expert certificate. But summer passes quickly, and before she knows it it's time to go home, without even a real good-bye from Erin. Two years later, Maggie's traveling with her family and arranges to see Erin again. Are the same feelings there, and are they real?

Is it any good?

Maggie Thrash's debut graphic-novel memoir is absorbing, intriguing, and bittersweet, and teens will easily and immediately relate to the ups and downs of first love. Thrash's confusion about falling for a girl is explored, although it seems no more or less confusing than being 15 and falling for someone of the opposite sex. HONOR GIRL succeeds because instead of focusing only on the same-sex aspect of the experience, Thrash takes the reader through the wide range of feelings involved in falling in love, giving the memoir universal appeal.

The illustrations have a child-like charm, use an appealing color palette, and are equally effective conveying action and a sense of place -- both emotional and physical. Thrash's unusual treatment of the eyes is a bit disconcerting at first, and occasionally it's a bit difficult to tell what you're looking at, but even so, it's easy to become absorbed in both the graphics and the narration. Maybe it's even fair play to catch the reader as off-guard as Thrash herself sometimes feels.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about same-sex love. Did you find Maggie's surprise at falling for a girl believable? Would things have been different if she'd fallen for a boy?

  • Does the graphic novel format of this memoir work for you? How would it be different if it were a traditional, unillustrated memoir?

  • Do you like the illustrations? How do they enhance the story? Do they make it more or less believable? How is showing something different from telling it with words?

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