Title: Honor Girl
Author: Maggie Thrash
Publisher: Candlewick Press/Walker Books
UK Release Date: 4th May 2017
Genres: Young Adult, LGBT, Graphic Novels, Memoir
- Thank you to Walker Books for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest 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 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.
I was very excited when I got the chance to review this via Walker Books as it sounded like exactly the kind of book I would enjoy. I’ve been trying to vary my reading a bit more, and seeing as this was a memoir and a graphic novel, it definitely allowed me to branch out in the type of books I read. I would definitely recommend it as a book, but especially if you’re trying to vary the genres you read.
So first of all I thought that aspects of this book were very relatable. Anyone who has spent time in an all-girl environment with teenagers will definitely be able to identify with many of the scenes at the camp. One of my favourites was the scene about the song they sang when a girl was ‘in love’ with one of the three boys who worked at the camp. I found that bit in particular especially hilarious! I actually thought that the book as a whole was very funny – I think mainly this was because of the characters. The protagonist and author, Maggie, was definitely more cynical than those around her, and more witty and switched-on too, which meant she was such a great narrator as her inner monologue about the girls around her could be pretty hilarious. A lot of the things that happened with the girls were made funnier when I realised that, seeing as it was a memoir, they actually happened.
However, it wasn’t all laughs – there were some parts that were actually quite sad. The acceptance of homosexuality varies at the moment depending on where you are in the world and the community you are in, and it’s been improving over time, especially in the last twenty years or so. Attitudes towards Maggie’s sexuality varies; it was really nice that some of her friends were very supportive, and even tried to act as her wingwoman with Erin. Other attitudes were not so nice, showing ignorance or just downright rudeness and judgement, and those parts made me feel really sad that Maggie had to face that, as it’s just completely wrong. The ending was sad too, but in a different way, as it wasn’t quite the ending I was hoping for. It was realistic though, and seeing as it’s a memoir the ending would have been actually how it happened, going to show that things don’t always work out the way you’d hope them to, and that’s okay.
I also loved the drawing style. When a book is a graphic novel, the story is only part of the equation – the drawings are also an important part of the book. I haven’t read many graphic novels so I don’t have much to compare Honor Girl to, but from my limited appreciation of artwork in graphic novels, I thought this was really great. The drawings weren’t overly complicated, which was nice as otherwise I think it could distract you from the story. Nonetheless, I thought the pictures were absolutely gorgeous, and the colours were bright and summery – this would definitely be a good book for summer, both in the mood from the graphic element and in that it is set in a summer camp. If you’re interested in seeing some of the artwork from the book, there are some images on both the UK and the US Amazon pages.
On the whole, I really thoroughly enjoyed this book – my hunch that the book would be just my cup of tea was absolutely right! The ending was disappointing to the romantic in me, but it was realistic which made me happy in another way. The book was just such a delightful, yet raw, yet heart-breaking story, and I really would recommend it.