By Maggie Thrash
Available now from Candlewick
Maggie Thrash, a writer for online teen mag Rookie, writes about the summer of 2000 in her debut work, an autobiographical graphic novel. That summer she went to Bellflower Camp, a Christian girls' camp in Georgia, as she did every summer. She also came to realize that she was a lesbian due to her (requited) crush on one of the counselors.
Thrash does a wonderful job of capturing the time and place. Backsteet Boys' Millenium is still on top, and everyone is passing around their copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. For Thrash, coming out is about as easy as you would expect at a Christian girls' camp in Georgia. The title HONOR GIRL refers to the girl chosen at the end of each year who embodies the ideals of the camp. It is an honor Thrash become less and less interested in pursuing as she struggles with her identity.
I thought the daily life at the camp was well represented. More people than Thrash expects take her sexuality in stride. She suffers from the attention of a bully, but more due to her skill on the range. However, homophobia still rears its ugly head. Tammy, one of the camp authorities, is right that letting a nineteen year old and a fifteen year old have a romantic relationship would be irresponsible of the camp no matter their genders. Unfortunately, not much else about how she handles the situation is right.
HONOR GIRL is drawn in watercolors, a medium that suits the subject matter well. The soft colors look nostalgic, and reminiscent of projects one might make at camp. Thrash is better at drawing objects than people. I thought the art was amateurish. Everyone has pupil-less eyes and sloping noses. It gets the story across, but isn't particularly engaging.
Thrash's story is one of first love, friendship, and alienation. It's a little choppy and messy, with a somewhat unsatisfying ending, which reflects its autobiographical nature. I thought it was well told, even if I wasn't enamored with the art.