Honor Girl

It doesn't get much more old-fashioned than a remote all-girls sleep-away camp in rural Kentucky. But in this graphic memoir, 15-year-old Maggie Thrash and her fellow campers are a curious combination of old traditions and new: reenacting the Civil War in the morning, fixating on the Backstreet Boys in the evening. Maggie's days at Camp Bellflower are filled with rifle-shooting, reading and endless rounds of camp songs. The painful tumult begins when a few awkward exchanges with Erin, an intriguing, guitar-playing, 19-year-old female counselor, leave Maggie questioning her sexuality. With only a few friends in on her secret, this is confusing for everybody: "I think we need a code for when we need to talk about g-a-y stuff. Like, 'The banana flies at midnight,' " suggests Bethany. Feeling isolated at a camp where coming out could mean getting kicked out, Maggie grapples with who she is and what to do.

The nostalgia of summer camp is reflected in lively watercolors and an engagingly minimalist, manga-influenced style. As is common with angst-ridden teenage love, much is conveyed in a single glance across the page. 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. Honor Girl trails off indistinctly, as many love stories do, but that's a fitting end to this dreamy, thoughtful debut memoir. --Stephanie Anderson, assistant director for public services, Darien Library, Conn.

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