Thursday, October 15, 2015

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

When I was growing up, I spent most of my tween and teen summers at an all girls camp in Harriman State park in upstate New York.  I loved the whole camp experience, the traditions, the s'mores, the canoeing, the bug juice but especially singing around the campfire and sleeping out under the stars with friends, many of whom I am still friends with.  Naturally, I was pretty excited to read Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash when I first heard about it.

Honor Girl is Trash's memoir about the summer of 2000 at Camp Bellflower, a Christian camp in the Kentucky Appalachians.  Maggie had been going to Bellflower for years and was familiar with all the camp's almost centuries long traditions, including the custom of choosing an Honor Girl at the end of summer.  The Honor Girl is the senior camper who embodies all the good and upright qualities the camp tries to instill in the campers.

For Maggie, now 15, camp begins just like every other year.  She shares a tent with friends who are familiar with the leash she wears at night to prevent her from sleepwalking and getting lost or hurt.   And she decides to concentrate on shooting for the summer, even though she isn't a very good shot. There's also boy talk and crushes on the Slog boys, the guys responsible for dishes, lawn mowing and garbage.  And then, there is a lice scare.

As Erin, a 19 year old counselor, checks Maggie's hair for lice, Maggie is suddenly aware of her touch. Very aware! Realizing she is attracted to Erin, Maggie tries to deflect her feelings to the rifle range and by totaling focusing, discovers she is an amazing shooter.  But even that doesn't stop her attraction to Erin, and soon it is clear Erin just may feel the same way.

As her feelings grow stronger, Maggie finds support among her real friends, who help her keep her feelings for Erin a secret.  But even as Maggie explores her sexuality, she gets pulled aside by a head counselor and told that  "…[camp] is a place where girls can be totally innocent and free, maybe for the last time in their lives.  Don't ruin it for everyone." (pg 173)

My days at summer camp are pleasant memories now, even though I know that all kinds of quiet drama unfolded every summer of our teen years.  And from that perspective, Maggie Trash has really captured what that was like in her new graphic memoir.  The girls were all about exploring and experiencing their sexuality, though not necessarily with other girls.

To that end, Thrash has written a great book about first love and I personally found it to be a very honest memoir about a young girl discovering her lesbian sexuality.  Maggie's voice sounds very realistic, clearly and concisely expressing all the insecurities, doubts, hopes and dreams that goes into a crush.  Readers will certainly sympathize with and relate to Maggie's story regardless of their sexual preferences.  One feeling that came across so very well was how Maggie felt she had to keep her feelings so close to the vest to avoid being ostracized by the other campers.  That is a hard thing to have to do when you feeling just the opposite.

There is one thing that bothered me - it could have used a bit of editing.  Thrash seems to have written this as it really happened but sometimes it's OK to leave out some details or events.  I say this knowing full well that young gay or questioning teens will hang onto every word as they explore their own sexuality.

In a world that needs more diverse books, Honor Girl is a welcomed LGTBQA addition.

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

We're celebrating Graphic books every Thursday thanks to Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading, Alyson Beecher of KidLit Frenzy and Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan of Assessment in Perspective

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for telling us about this memoir - It sounds like an important YA book.


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