A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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."
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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?
- Author: Maggie Thrash
- Illustrator: Maggie Thrash
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: September 8, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Hardback
- Last updated: December 3, 2020
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