February 16, 2010

Rabid Reads: "Whip It" (aka "Derby Girl") by Shauna Cross

Title: Whip It (originally published as Derby Girl)
Author: Shauna Cross
Published: Square Fish (2009), an imprint of MacMillan; originally published by Henry Holt (2007) as
Derby Girl
Pages: 234
Genre: Young Adult
ISBN 978-0-312-53599-5
When I first heard about Drew Barrymore's directorial debut film, Whip It, I had no idea it was based on a book. So, when I learned the book was available at my library, I checked it out. Not bad. I just hope the movie's better.
It's a fast read with only a little more than two hundred pages, which was a bit of a shame because the premise of a repressed teen seeking catharsis through joining a roller derby league is pure gold. I remember seeing snippets of roller derby on television--usually airing immediately before or after pro wrestling--and finding the whole idea of it oddly entertaining. To this day, I don't have any real handle on the rules of roller derby, but I suspect the people who participate aren't that clear in that regard either.
Bliss Cavender is a teen girl from the embarrassingly small town of Bodeen, Texas, born into a legacy of small town pageant beauties. Her mother is not quite a tyrant in the pageant mom department, but she comes pretty close. And her father is about as engaged in the family dynamic as a stunned moose. Bliss is destined to be Miss Bluebonnet (the top crown for the local, vapid tarts) just like her mother was, but Bliss couldn't care less. She hates nearly every facet of her life and longs to break free to the small town life and find solace in a city of vibrancy.
Suffocating under her mother's rule, Bliss and her best friend, Pash, discover roller derby by happenstance on day, and Bliss instantly falls in love with it. Pash is happy to see Bliss has found something to make her happy, even though it's brutish. For Bliss, aside from barely being able to stand on a pair of roller skates, she and her blue-dyed hair are sure they were born to be a derby girl. She's coaxed into signing up for tryouts by one of the team's bold and beautiful captains, Malice in Wonderland--names are a bit of a big deal in roller derby, I guess, as Bliss takes on the moniker of Babe Ruthless.
I wish Bliss and her adventures as Babe Ruthless were the focus of this story. But, it was not to be, as the majority of it dealt with Bliss sneaking around behind her mother's back, falling for a hot bass player, and the inevitable complications in her friendship with Pash, as everything gets priority over her best friend. Roller derby is ultimately window dressing for the coming of age story. Damn, I've read and watched plenty of those.
I wanted more roller derby. There are some fun moments with it, but I had hoped for a more immersing experience in that world.
Oh well. Shauna Cross has created a fun and likable character with Bliss, who is really easy to root for as the story unfolds. As a guy, I couldn't help wanting more smash mouth action among the girls in the league, to compliment the events happening outside the rink. As it stands, the book is far more palatable for a brute like me than other "chick lit" romps I've come across.
Whip It is YA chick lit, but with a backdrop I quite liked. I found it far more enjoyable than those fifteen minutes I spent trying to sit through The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants years ago. Would I recommend this book to the guys? Probably not. To the ladies? Without hesitation.


  1. I want to read this. Roller Derby looks like so much fun! I still prefer to play and watch hockey, but roller derby has to be my 2nd choice :)

  2. Roller derby or hockey: I'd still suck on skates.

  3. I remember watching Roller Derby on tv in the 70's. It was much more real than wresting. Those were some tough ladies!! This books does sound good!