Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash
At 17, Maggie Thrash and her mother are visiting her brother in New Mexico where he’s attending college. “I don’t approve of your running off with this person you haven’t seen in two years,” her mother admonishes her, while her brother deadpans a “I’m bitterly resentful,” barely looking up from his book.
Upon reunion, the friend confesses, “I never expected to see you again,” which sends Maggie back two years to when she last saw – but never said goodbye to – the enigmatic Erin.
Roll back to bucolic Camp Bellweather in remote Kentucky, where “nothing [has] changed since 1922.” Over the decades, Maggie, her mother, and grandmother have spent their youthful summers reenacting Civil War morning scream-fests, earning merit badges to sew onto pillowcases, and – for Maggie – sleeping each night strapped in with a bed-leash to prevent sleepwalking threats. “There was very little diversity among the one hundred campers,” Maggie recalls. “Even the one Jewish Girl had blond hair and blue eyes … and every year she set the trends.”
The campers all look up to the eponymous Honor Girl, elected the previous summer, who “represent[ed] the best of us.” No girl ever dares to sneak a Coke from the vending machine reserved for counselors because “[t]hat’s just not who we were.” Maggie crushes on Kevin Richardson, her favorite Backstreet Boy “because he seemed soulful and brooding.” She spends the summer earning her “Distinguished Expert certification” for shooting – a hidden skill she never knew she had. She discusses the “favorite slog boy” among the camp’s only three male employees.
In between reading the latest Harry Potter, a lice scare, a “Boy Band Blowout,” a flash flood that keeps the girls from returning to camp for three days, Maggie manages to unexpectedly, surprisingly fall in love. Surviving 15-year-old teenagerhood as a deeply Southern, Lilly Pulitzer-garbed, pre-debutante in search of National Rifle Association approval, is challenging enough … but what happens when the object of your passionate madness is not someone you can bring home to Mommy …? That Mommy rushes Maggie on camp pick-up day because she has tickets that evening to Brigadoon – a frothy musical about enchanted love in the misty Scottish highlands – is not irony lost.
Subtitled “a graphic memoir,” debut author/artist Thrash is literally an open book on the page, something she couldn’t be as an angst-riddled, searching, suffering teenager. Depression keeps her from even taking a shower for a month, which just makes her appearance-adhering mother better at “making excuses.” “[I]t seemed unbelievable,” Thrash remembers, “… that things could just go on, oblivious of me, with no sympathy for the fact that I was a different person now.”
Thoughtful, honest, candid – and indelibly, authentically drawn – the adult Thrash finally gets to show-and-tell her teenage all with maximum resonance.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult