Thursday, January 21, 2010

Derby Girl
Shauna Cross

rating: 7 out of 10 "books"

I don't really know why, but I seem to enjoy reading a lot of books that are later turned into movies or read books after I've discovered that a movie has been made about them. I think it's just my love of film that makes me do this. Having said that, I find it no surprise that I was drawn to the book "Derby Girl" by Shauna Cross when I discovered it was the book that later became the Ellen Page movie, "Whip It."

"Derby Girl" is the story of Bliss Cavendar, a 16 year old punk rocker who is, unfortunately, stuck in the small Texas town of Bodeen where football rules and people like her are limited. From her small Texas town to her "two culturally clueless imposters for legal guardians," Bliss imagines her "real parents" are out there somewhere doing cool art stuff or something. Bliss is into all things "punk rock." She loves indie music, thrift store shopping, etc, and has even dyed her hair blue to show her disgust for all things ordinary. Her mother is addicted to beauty pagents and is always trying to get Bliss to compete. Luckily Bliss's 4 year old sister fulfills much of that void, but "Brooke" (her mother) still has the delusion that Bliss will participate in the Miss Bluebonnet beauty pagent, a Cavendar tradition that has seen both Bliss's grandmother and mother win.

Her only friend is the beautiful Pash Amini who moved into town and shares the same indie rock spirit as Bliss. They spend most of their free time slaving away at the "Oink Joint," a gross barbecue restaurant that all the local hicks frequent. The only thing that gets them through the hell of small town Texas life is each other. That, and imagining finding the perfect rocker boyfriends whilest getting the hell out of Bodeen.

But everything seems to change when Bliss picks up a flier for Roller Derby while shopping in downtown Austin with her mother and sister one day. She doens't even know what it is, but Bliss knows she has to go check it out. She instantly falls in love with Roller Derby the first time she sneaks out to go watch a match. When one of the Roller Derby girls encourages Bliss to try out for an opening, the idea scares her, but yet as Bliss states "something about watching those Derby Girls and hearing their skates pound on the track -- it's like I got to peek through the window at what life could be like outside of Bodeen. I want more. I need more." Remarkably, Bliss makes the team and lies to her parents that she's joined an SAT study group in order to get away with coming home late. Bliss is suddenly immersed in a totally different culture. She falls in love with a rocker boy and gains a whole group of friends like she's never had before. Bliss even finds herself being nicer to her mother, and agreeing to enter the silly beauty pagent to appease her. But while her life gets better because of derby, her friendship with Pash begins to suffer.

"Derby Girl," is the story of a teen finally finding out who she is and gaining a sense of belonging. There's some heartbreak and true learning experiences thrown in there, but it's something Bliss, I'm sure, would not trade for the world. I enjoyed this story a lot. It was a super easy read (the book was small in size and length), and had a lot of enjoyable moments. However, this was also part of what I did not like about the book. I felt like the author could have developed the story a lot more; really gotten into Bliss's emotions. It felt like as soon as I began the book it was over. That's why I've given this book a rating of 7 "books" out of 10. If you want a humorous book that will take you no time to read, I think "Derby Girl" is perfect. From the first page of the story I could also see why they cast Ellen Page as Bliss: it sounded exactly like her character in "Juno." I have yet to see the movie, and have heard some negative reviews of it, but I wonder if it has anything to do with the shortness of the book. Oh well, I still want to see it!

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