What: Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
Who: Candlewick Press
When: September 8th 2015
How: A copy of this novel was provided by Walker Books Australia for review.
All-girl camp. First love. First heartbreak. At once romantic and devastating, brutally honest and full of humor, this graphic-novel memoir is a debut of the rarest sort.
Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.
I read Honor Girl in about an hour, because I read graphic novels and manga volumes extremely quickly, and it was also really easy to immerse myself in the story that I was reading.
Maggie was a great character to read about (although, it feels weird calling her a character since it’s a memoir, but I’m going with it). She’s sarcastic and laid back, and I wanted to jump inside the book and become instant best friends with her. I completely understood her feelings for Erin, and how she felt like she was consumed by them, because I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there when we were teenagers.
Other than Maggie, I also liked her two friends (I think their names were Shannon and Rachel but I could be seriously wrong there). Rachel (or at least I think her name was Rachel) was a little younger than Maggie, and completely hyperactive. She guessed from the get-go that Maggie had feelings for Erin, and even though she teased Maggie about it a bit, she was a pretty loyal friend. Shannon was really similar to Maggie in the sarcastic and laid back kind of demeanour, and to be honest I kind of shipped them.
But other than that, I didn’t really like any of the other characters. The other girls at the camp were complete bitches, to say the least. They bullied Maggie, both verbally and physically, and I hated them. The camp kind of “mother” was a horrible homophobe, and I cannot believe that Maggie had to go through such a disgusting time when it came to that woman. The things she said. I just. I couldn’t. It hurt to read about, to be honest.
Erin. I felt like Erin was kind of weak. Maggie was scared to initiate anything between them, but Erin never did, either. And then when that ending came around, I was just shocked. My heart ached for Maggie. She had spent so much time and effort and feelings on Erin and then Erin just … didn’t do the same for her. I didn’t quite understand her character at all, and I thought that Maggie could do better.
The art was gorgeous in its simplicity, and the colours were divine. I really liked how I could see the difference between Maggie’s level of excitement about the camp (near to nil) and the other girls’ excitement about the camp (which was, fearfully, a lot). The whole thing is handwritten, but I really liked the sections in cursive (like the last page) – those lines really stood out from the rest, and brought an even more personal touch to Honor Girl.
All in all, I really did like Honor Girl. Even though I am a sucker for a happy ending and the ending of this story in no way appeased that side of me, I can also understand that happy endings don’t always happen in real life, and sometimes we are disappointed and left hanging.
If you’re looking for a beautiful graphic novel about falling in love for the first time, then there’s no reason to not pick up Honor Girl.
© 2015, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.
trigger warning: homophobia in this novel