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Friday, September 4, 2015

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir

At BEA this year I picked up an excerpt of Maggie Thrash's Honor Girl and I fell madly in love. The publisher kindly provided me with a copy of the most gorgeous book I have seen lately. I am so grateful!

Summer camp has been a staple in so many young lives, and Maggie attended hers for many of her formative years. At 15 years old, having never even been kissed, she heads back to Camp Bellflower for Girls for another summer. She runs around with old friends, moons over the Backstreet Boys, becomes a rifle expert, and falls in love. This love is quite unexpected though, being with one of the older female counselors. As they spend the summer trying to stay away from each other yet exploring the attraction, they must keep this a secret or risk exposing themselves in a time and place where it’s just not accepted.

Teen angst shows up a lot in literature, so while it’s nothing new, it comes around again and again because it’s something we all know and can relate to on the simplest of levels. I didn’t necessarily struggle with my own sexuality as a teenager. (No one ever asks, “When did you know you were attracted to boys, Nicole?” The answer would be, “Since age four when I chased my first boyfriend down on the playground and kissed him.”) However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t understand what it feels like to suspect everyone’s looking at me and trying to make me out to be whatever they want in their own eyes. 

This is where Thrash’s graphic novel excels. It’s classic adolescence, where we all feel everyone’s always looking at us even when they’re not (because really, they are all concerned that everyone’s looking at them), and how we grow and explore and learn when we feel we are always being watched. Don’t get me wrong – the illustrations are fantastic. But it’s really the heart of the story, the summer at camp, the stirrings of attraction, and the never ending thoughts of that special someone, that really draws you in and keeps you with this story. Regardless of your sexuality, you’ve been there. The lack of concentration. The desperation you feel when circumstances keep you from seeing that person you are dying to see. (WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE CHICKEN POX AND CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL? I NEED TO SEE JASON IN 3RD PERIOD CHEMISTRY!)

Thrash’s story is universal, and that’s what made my heart break when I read it. I understood her obsession with excelling with her rifle. It was the one thing she could do to take her mind off of her feelings. I understood her desperation to not let anyone find out about her feelings, and at the camp dance, the mix of that need with her desire to get the boy from the brother camp asking her to dance away from her. (Can I also say that if you are a Backstreet Boys fan from back in the day, this book is worth picking up for some fantastic references, including but not limited to an imitation night.) When the Honor Girl ceremony came around, I knew what was going to happen. That's what made it all the more difficult to read. 

I would also like to point out that this book is gorgeous. When it came in the mail, I just about lost my mind. It was stunning. I know that’s not necessarily a reason that one should love a book, but really, it was jaw-dropping. After I finished it I immediately put it on my shelf, and you all know I don’t keep books willy nilly. This copy just looks so beautiful and colorful and serene on my shelf. 

For purchase below.

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