“The criteria for Honor Girl were vague, with no particular definition. It was just the one who seemed, in an unmistakable way, to represent the best of us.”
– Maggie Thrash, Honor Girl
All-girl camp. First love. First heartbreak. At once romantic and devastating, brutally honest and full of humour, 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 counsellor 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.
If you have spent any amount of time in a bookstore lately you might have noticed how many graphic novels are claiming up shelf space. It is a growing medium in the book world and I could not be happier! While I am still a new graphic novel reader, I find myself being drawn to them more and more! As a visual learner, I get so much out of the blend of imagery and words and more often than not, I get distracted by the artwork and forget to read the words. When a book as pretty as Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash arrives in the mailbox, you get pretty excited!
Honor Girl is the first graphic memoir I have read! Thrash recounts the summer everything changed. At fifteen years old, Thrash had spent nearly every summer at Camp Bellflower, a remote summer camp in Appalachia. Thrash is a typical teenage girl worrying about her first kiss and being madly in love with the Backstreet Boys. She is a sharp shooter on the camp’s rifle range but is socially quiet. When an innocent touch occurs between Thrash and an older female camp counsellor, she finds herself questioning her sexuality. The Christian camp is not the easiest place for Thrash and the older girl to explore their feelings and the reader gets the feeling it isn’t going to end well…
Having just finished How to Be Happy by David Burton and seeing the struggles he faced with his sexuality it was interesting to read it from a female perspective. Thrash’s hand drawn artwork is simple yet highly expressive as she captures every awkward and tender moment of teenagers with a crush. Every longing look and ‘accidental’ touch is recorded in a way that all former teens will recognise as being caught up in the angst of teenage love; it is obsessive, sweet and endearing!
Thrash has a small group of friends who are sympathetic, encouraging and their behaviour is refreshingly good-natured which is surprising considering the all-female environment they are in. There is only one camper – Libby – whose behaviour towards Thrash isn’t always so kind. Libby is jealous and sometimes manipulating in order to get ahead of Thrash, particularly on the rifle range where they are fierce competitors.
The nature of the artwork in this graphic memoir lends itself to feeling like a diary that we have the privilege of reading. The reader is invited along to summer camp and we feel like one of her friends watching her vulnerability and confusion. Thrash is honest and funny while recounting her tale of self-discovery, love and heartbreak. This book is a joy to read!
AUTHOR: Maggie Thrash
PUBLISHER: Walker Books Australia
PUB DATE: September 2015
Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!