Review: Whip It (aka Derby Girl)

Small-town life sucks when you don't fit in, and if your name is "Bliss" it's ironic suckage at that. Her mom wants her to be the next beauty pageant phenom but she's found a different calling: Roller derby! Whip It (originally titled Derby Girl) by Shauna Cross is a young adult coming-of-age story about a girl pursuing a non-traditional dream. Though it may sound cliche, the story's sarcastic snark and little human details give it a humourous authenticity, making it a fun, fluffy, and engaging read.

Rated: 4 / 5

Whip It, originally titled Derby Girl, by Shauna Cross, is the story of Bliss Cavendar, an indie-rock loving square peg that's not fitting into her round (soul-sucking black) hole of a small town. Worse than that, Bliss is subject to ongoing beauty pageant tiara terrorism (tiara-ism) as her mother tries to make her continue the winning tradition of the matriarchal line. Then Bliss discovers what she's meant to do: Roller derby! She'll need to go behind her parents back, but what could possibly go wrong?

This is Bliss's coming-of-age story told from her perspective and in her voice, which is to say full of sarcasm and snark. Wonderful, funny, sarcasm and snark. It's the kind of first person hyperbole that can become tiresome in the wrong hands, but it works here. The humour let's us see the mundanity and boredom without getting getting bored, ourselves. It contains many tiny human moments, creating an authenticity that brought me back to high school and the weird dichotomy of being part adult and part kid.

Whip It stays emotionally light in tone, almost too light. There's conflict as Bliss tries to find a way to be true to herself, but none of it gets close to tense. The low key conflict and speed at which it's resolved deprive us an emotional payout that could have been much bigger. This is arguably the book's weakness.

The story was originally released with the title Derby Girl. After the movie adaptation came out with the title Whip It, the novel was re-released under the same name. Whip It the novel is the same as Derby Girl, and not a rewrite to match the slightly different movie story.

Whip It is a fun little read with an engaging story, likable characters, and great prose. Though it doesn't have a strong emotional punch it possesses an authenticity that leaves you in a happy place at the end.

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