Title: Roller Girl
Author: Vanessa North
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Lenght: 154 pages
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Sports
When Tina Durham gets a chance to a join a local roller derby team, she jumps on the opportunity immediately. Having retired from a professional wakeboarding career due to her transition and being freshly divorced, she is at a loss as to what to do with her life. The fact that the beautiful and charismatic Joe gives the invitation doesn’t hurt at all.
The two feel instant attraction and become lovers. However, due to the coach-player nature of their working relationship, Joe begs Tina to keep their affair secret until she can explain it to their teammates. Tina’s reluctant acceptance of the situation is where most of the conflict of this book comes from. It’s also my biggest problem with the book.
Roller Girl is in its nature a very feel-good story. It offers empowerment through a female-dominated sport. It gives us trans empowerment and body positivity and queer spaces. Which makes me mad that the relationship drama frankly annoyed me. I didn’t want to be annoyed because I was absolutely in love with everything else, but I was.
Books with queer characters in secret relationships, where one of the characters get angry about being a secret, make me angry, because for obvious reasons, it’s not always safe to be open about said relationship. But what gets me about this book is that the it isn’t a safety issue that forces them to be secretive, but a case of miscommunication. And whenever Tina gets understandably upset about the situation, instead of talking through the problem and trying to resolve it, Joe would instead seduce her into ignoring it until it grew too big and blew up into their faces. Honestly, the entire issue of their secret relationship felt shoehorned in just for the sake of having some drama. The book would’ve been much more improved by taking out the entire subplot.
Despite that, Roller Girl was wonderful. It was sweet, funny, and touching. I was in fact so touched, I cried my way through most of the final part of the book. The inclusion of a non-binary child was a very sweet reminder of the importance of representation. The friendships made me root for the characters and the Tina and Joe’s relationship made me wish for another story with the characters.