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Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir
     

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir

by Maggie Thrash
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Vera Brosgol
…Thrash writes with confidence and skill remarkable for a debut…she offsets heartache with sharp humor, sincere but never cloying. Period details…place the story at the turn of the millennium, though the feelings involved are timeless. In addition to being an ace writer…Thrash shows an impressive grasp of the language of comics. Page layouts are clean and clever…Though simply drawn, the artwork is by no means lazy. There is thought in every watercolored panel, the spare expressions and body language filling in the blanks when the characters aren't speaking. This is what comics are for…Thrash captures the way summer camp is exempt from time and reality. Things stay there, wrapped up in the smells of old canvas and canoe sheds, even as you desperately try to take them with you.
Publishers Weekly
★ 06/01/2015
Newcomer Thrash’s graphic storytelling style, with its blank-eyed, manga-esque characters, might surprise readers accustomed to more polish. The good news is that her dialogue is so smart and snappy that a few pages in, they’ll find it doesn’t matter. Thrash portrays her 15-year-old self as a cynical Atlanta pre-cotillion deb who has been attending the same Appalachian sleepaway camp for years. Everything changes when a random caress from an older counselor, Erin, awakens a storm of desire. Maggie is unprepared for the turmoil of first love, and the camp is, to put it mildly, unwelcoming to teens questioning their sexuality. “Apparently they were on the tennis court,” two campers gossip. “Blythe said they were pretty much doing it with a racket.” Thrash writes with an intoxicating mix of candor, irony, and fresh passion. Much of the memoir’s piquancy comes from the collisions between the camp’s ideal of Southern womanhood, the campers’ clannishness, and Maggie’s faith in herself as she becomes, incongruously, the camp’s best rifle shot. This is the kind of memoir that stays with readers for days. Ages 14–up. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Sept.)
VOYA, October 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 4) - Lisa A. Hazlett
Maggie has spent every summer at the venerable and isolated camp Bellflower for Girls, enjoying its routines and respite from her busy city life. Arriving with her heart belonging to The Backstreet Boys, everything changes after Erin, a counselor, assists with the girls’ hair and Maggie realizes her surprising, and overwhelmingly strong, attraction to another female. Although Erin seems to reciprocate, they can spend little time together, stymied by their differing ages and positions. Worse, Maggie manages to bungle their few encounters from nervousness and being a complete relationship novice.To release her emotions and frustrations, she becomes an expert shot at the camp’s rifle range, but when not practicing, Maggie has ample time to ponder her feelings—and others’ reactions should they become public. Maggie narrates this graphic novel memoir through text and watercolor, pen, pencil, and digital artwork. Opening with a prologue showing Maggie at seventeen, the story of her fifteenth summer follows, and then concludes with the prologue’s bittersweet ending. This is immediately engrossing, both poignant and hilarious, as the personable and likeable Maggie nails typical adolescent experiences with particularly wicked camp descriptions. While loosely based on the author’s circumstances, Maggie’s portrayal of her first love and heartbreak is everyone’s story, whether gay or straight, male or female. Maggie’s emotions are sharply honest, with readers feeling her exhilaration, anxiety, awkwardness, confusion, and pain. However, females witnessing Maggie’s touching realization of her childhood’s end will also celebrate her new confidence and hope for the future. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett; Ages 12 to 18.
VOYA, October 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 4) - Twila A. Sweeney
This book is large and looks like an illustrated novel for younger students. Teachers will probably need to recommend, but females will love the story. Seeing Maggie’s troubled relationship evolve on paper makes it appear ordinary and normal, as does her humorous commentary. Especially helpful is readers seeing themselves here and receiving a confidence and esteem boost, as nearly everyone has or will experience Maggie’s situation. 5Q, 4P. Reviewer: Twila A. Sweeney, Teen Review; Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
★ 06/01/2015
Gr 9 Up—In this poignant memoir, Thrash examines a pivotal summer, marked by first love, self-discovery, and some difficult realizations. At age 15, Maggie returned to Camp Bellflower for Girls, a Christian camp located in Kentucky that she'd been attending for years, and fell in love with Erin, an older counselor. She encountered hostility from narrow-minded fellow campers and adults alike, both for her same-sex attraction and for her general refusal to toe the line when she proved to be a more skilled marksman than another girl. Although she long aspired to be named Honor Girl (a distinction that each year went to the girl who most exemplified the camp's spirit), she soon began to see her seemingly fun-filled, carefree world as tight and constricting and to realize she possessed the power to forge her own identity. Like Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, authors of This One Summer (First Second, 2014), Thrash has a gift for imbuing everyday, slice-of-life moments with deeper meaning, and she effortlessly conveys the awkwardness of coming into one's own. The tone is spot-on, varying from funny and quirky to quiet and contemplative, and Thrash seamlessly weaves in light, turn-of-the-millennium pop culture touchstones like the Backstreet Boys with darker historical references (the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy). Brief interludes of heartfelt, intimately wrought text appear alongside or in between panels, and the art is raw, sketchbooklike. Readers will feel as though they're opening a scrapbook or journal rather than a more formal autobiography. VERDICT An insightful and thought-provoking work.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-05-06
Thrash chronicles one monumental summer at an all-girls' camp where she experienced her gut-wrenching first love. Every summer, Maggie, an Atlanta native, attends Camp Bellflower, an all-girls' camp in Kentucky, complete with tents, shooting, and Civil War re-enactments that have been a camp tradition for nearly 100 years. The summer that she turns 15, however, she falls in love for the first time. She meets Erin, a 19-year-old counselor who studies astronomy and plays guitar. Her summer is filled with the usual camp melodrama, although along with the everyday banalities, Maggie must try to hide what she's feeling toward Erin. Rumors thrum throughout the camp about girls who are whispered to be lesbians, leading to their eventual ostracism; Maggie, though honest with both herself and a confidante, tries to avoid her own social exile. Thrash perfectly captures all the feelings of an adolescent first love: the insecurities, the awkwardness, and self-doubts along with the soaring, intense highs of proximity. Thrash's remembrances are evinced with clear, wide-eyed illustrations colored with a dreamily vibrant palette. She has so carefully and skillfully captured a universal moment—the first time one realizes that things will never be the same—that readers will find her story captivating. A luminescent memoir not to be missed. (Graphic memoir. 13 & up)
From the Publisher
In this graphic memoir, Thrash writes with confidence and skill remarkable for a debut.
—The New York Times

Thrash's remembrances are evinced with clear, wide-eyed illustrations colored with a dreamily vibrant palette. She has so carefully and skillfully captured a universal moment—the first time one realizes that things will never be the same—that readers will find her story captivating. A luminescent memoir not to be missed.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In this poignant memoir, Thrash examines a pivotal summer, marked by first love, self-discovery, and some difficult realizations...The tone is spot-on, varying from funny and quirky to quiet and contemplative, and Thrash seamlessly weaves in light, turn-of-the-millennium pop culture touchstones like the Backstreet Boys with darker historical references (the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy)... An insightful and thought-provoking work.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Thrash writes with an intoxicating mix of candor, irony, and fresh passion. Much of the memoir’s piquancy comes from the collisions between the camp’s ideal of Southern womanhood, the campers’ clannishness, and Maggie’s faith in herself as she becomes, incongruously, the camp’s best rifle shot. This is the kind of memoir that stays with readers for days.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Thrash's unvarnished retelling of her adolescent experience is neither glamourizing nor self-deprecating—and the salty realism makes the story engrossing and quite funny. Though lesbian and questioning teens may be especially responsive to the narrative, any young reader will see in Maggie and her friends a relatable sort of confident confusion.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)

This honest, raw, and touching graphic memoir will resonate with teens coming to terms with identities of all stripes, regardless of sexual orientation.
—Booklist

This is immediately engrossing, both poignant and hilarious, as the personable and likeable Maggie nails typical adolescent experiences with particularly wicked camp descriptions. While loosely based on the author’s circumstances, Maggie’s portrayal of her first love and heartbreak is everyone’s story, whether gay or straight, male or female. Maggie’s emotions are sharply honest, with readers feeling her exhilaration, anxiety, awkwardness, confusion, and pain.
—VOYA

In this graphic novel, deceptively simple drawings in a mostly dreamy palette work well to capture big, sweeping emotions of the camp experience...
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Readers may recognize themselves in Maggie’s halting steps toward adulthood and self-awareness...
—Literacy Daily

Thrash's graphic memoir presents a love story with which every reader will be able to identify...Honor Girl will be a page-turner leaving readers with many unresolved questions, a scenario familiar to LGBT and straight teens alike.
—School Library Connection

[Wipes away tear.] Honor Girl is, all at once, heartachey (but never precious), dry-witted (but not cynical), and incredibly beautiful. Maggie Thrash has not only given us a unique addition to the canon of intelligent-young-woman-centered comics, but a reminder of the rewards of opening yourself up and exposing your own vulnerability – in love and in writing.
—Tavi Gevinson

Though I am neither a teenage girl nor a lesbian, I found this story super-real and relatable.
—Ira Glass, host of This American Life

Honest, funny, and so real you can smell summer camp while you read it, Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl hits dead center.
—A.S. King, award-winning author of Ask the Passengers and Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

Honor Girl beautifully portrays the awkward excitement and heartbreak of first and forbidden love. I couldn’t put it down, even while my heart was aching. I loved this book!
—Jo Knowles, author of See You at Harry’s and Read Between the Lines

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763673826
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
09/08/2015
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
203,637
Product dimensions:
7.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile:
GN400L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Maggie Thrash is a staff writer for Rookie, a popular online magazine for teenage girls. This is her first book. She lives in Delaware.

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