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All's Faire in Middle School

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The author of Roller Girl is back with a graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and the Renaissance Faire.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she's eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she'll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind--she'll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it's not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don't) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family's unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

248 pages, Hardcover

First published September 5, 2017

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Victoria Jamieson

22 books680 followers

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5 stars
7,453 (42%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,391 reviews
Profile Image for Calista.
3,883 reviews31.2k followers
November 15, 2019
I love a Renaissance. This book follows a family who works the show each year and we get to see behind the scenes of what those people's lives are like. Imogene has been homeschooled and this year for middle school, she is going to public school.

The story is about learning to navigate the politics of cool-dom that is middle school or as my uncle calls it, "humanity in the raw." She does her best to fit in and survive. It's so difficult that she begins to be embarrassed by her family and the faire, which is her life. She lives for the faire. It seems like she might be making friends, but the harder she tries, the less it works for her.

Imogene has a great character arc. She starts out high, dips very low and comes back up slowly with many consequences. It's a wonderful story. I never heard of the Renn Faire when I was growing up. It's great to see a story about surviving the Game of thrones that is middle school and exploring the Renn fair. (You know, middle school has so much in common with Game of thrones. No one is safe and no one gets out unscathed, in my experience. It is such a challenge.)

This story is wonderful and if you are a fantasy geek, I think you will love this story. I am going to see if my niece will read this. I think she will enjoy it.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
648 reviews92 followers
July 12, 2020
Victoria Jamieson's Roller Girl was one of the best graphic novels I read this year. It's one of the best graphic novels I’ve read ever. So it was natural I'd look for more of her work.

I liked this story, but it's NO Roller Girl.

Imogene has been home-schooled through the 5th grade, but now she's decided to tackle public school. And let's face it--public school is terrifying and, going off of my rusty memory, middle school was an often meaner place than high school. Not to mention Imogene has an eccentric family that is heavily into the Renaissance Faire gig. And thus all manner of victories and indignities are visited upon our protagonist: getting busted for wearing thrift store jeans, making friends who are maybe really frenemies, BOYS!, being picked up at school by a car full of Ren Faire larpers in full-on medieval drag (thank God my parents never did this kind of stuff, I would fully have had to change schools.)

This was cute, but let's state the obvious-- this story has a lot of Mean Girls DNA in it: a girl who is home-schooled goes to public school for the first time, falls in with the popular girls, the head popular girl is really mean, she is mocked for her clothes, she reluctantly mocks her not cool friend when she's with them, she falls out with the popular clique and they photocopy her burn book sketch pad and distribute it around school.

There certainly is some universality to Mean Girls (and besides, who doesn't LOVE that movie?), so I didn't mind that so much. I had some problems with Imogene's parents though that really detracted from my enjoyment. Are they that out of touch they don't see how hard adjusting to middle school is when she's been home-schooled her whole life and most of her social life up until that point has consisted of talking in Ye Olde English and pretending to hunt dragons?

And I'm not a parent and thus have zero expertise on six year old boys, but it seemed to me like they encouraged the infantilization of Imogene's little brother to the entire family's detriment. And maybe, don't let him run wild in the supermarket pretending to be pregnant with his stuffed squirrel (I'm going to agree with another reviewer: the kid at one point can't distinguish his pet squirrel from a living animal, but he also knows enough about pregnancy that he can tell shoppers his water is breaking? His developmental level is very confusing.) Also, giving your sixth grade daughter a silent treatment that lasts weeks? I do NOT approve.

On the bright side, Jamieson really understands the adolescent experience and has the gift of really connecting with her young reader's on their level. The bubbly, brightly-colored artwork is the same:

(See? This seems really weird to me. I feel like I understood at some level when I was six that stuffed animals weren't alive and couldn't eat sandwiches, but I didn't understand water breaking until years later. I hope I never pulled bullshit like this in the grocery.)

Some parts of this story left a bad taste in my mouth though.

Seriously, read Roller Girl.
Profile Image for Abby Johnson.
3,373 reviews313 followers
July 1, 2017
Okay, I loved ROLLER GIRL, but this one is even better.

Victoria Jamieson presents a story about navigating middle school but with a twist. Imogene's grown up with her Renaissance Faire family. Every summer since she can remember, she's worked at her parents' shoppe and this year she's finally becoming an apprentice in the cast. She's also starting middle school (her choice) after years of being homeschooled. Middle school, it turns out, is trickier than Imogene had anticipated and she finds herself navigating a twisted maze of friendships, mean girls, strict teachers, and potential love interests.

The Ren Faire theme is woven cleverly throughout the book - each chapter begins with an illuminated panel that harkens the reader back to books of the Renaissance time. Little details like Imogene's natural habit of thinking "Oh, fie!" when something goes amiss or her parents friends coming over for a roleplaying game really bring the Ren Faire culture to life.

Hand this to fans of contemporary graphic novels that explore themes of friendship like SMILE, EL DEAFO, or REAL FRIENDS. It will garner many admirers. Huzzah!

(Coming in September!)
Profile Image for Jenna 🧵.
224 reviews77 followers
January 24, 2019
I mean, if you (like me) had the initial reaction of, Hey! A colorful and whimsical graphic novel about a middle school girl’s coming of age? while she and her family work at a Renaissance Faire for a living?? That sounds intriguing! - then yes, of course you are correct and you should definitely read this. It is very unique.

Like many, I went for this book based on my love for Roller Girl, which is about the best middle grade baby feminist graphic novel possible, in my view. Everyone will probably like either that book or this book a little bit better, but there’s some common ground in things that Jamieson is just really darn good at.

First, it goes without saying - the detailed and colorful drawings are just such a pleasure to look at. It reminds me of an adolescent version of reading the Richard Scarry books as a kid. (I mean this as the best possible compliment: I made my mom crochet me a Lowly Worm - like, last year in my, you know, middle adulthood - which resides on my dresser. Clearly Scarry left an impression.) And both roller derby and renaissance festival settings clearly provide extremely rich opportunities for fun visual landscapes.

Second - of course, the empowerment aspect of a slightly not fitting in, slightly not traditionally gender conforming heroine finding herself. This book in particular, through cast members of the renaissance fair, had lots of good representations of ways to be a strong and complex woman: no spoilers, but there is a princess, and a queen, and a hermit, who all reveal unexpected and valuable facets of their character.

Also, I really, really appreciate that the young heroines in both this book and Roller Girl reside in households that are financially struggling to make ends quite meet, and that this is integral to the plot. It reminds me of reading Beverly Cleary books when I was young and feeling comforted that the parents in those books were, like parents all around me, trying to find work, or taking courses to get a better job, always counting pennies and elaborately strategizing to pay bills, and dining out on burgers was a huge family treat...this was very validating and normalizing to someone growing up during a big recession. But then - all this resourcefulness lends itself to opportunities in creativity and nonconformity. The heroines of Jamieson’s novels are, like, little versions of the Molly Ringwald character in Pretty in Pink, forging metaphorical prom dresses of their own out of what life has given them and the best their parents can do, then going to the dance to show the world “you didn’t break me.” (Only, you know, instead of going to some shitty high school dance as a proving ground, and wearing a pink dress, they are going to a roller racetrack or sword fighting academy, dressed accordingly, and testing their mettle there!) I should add here that both of these books contain excellent depictions of the value of sticking to/with something even when it really, really, really sucks, and that sometimes there is no way out but through.

Last - I just love Jamieson’s very realistic, to the point of being borderline unlikeable or at least irritating at times, characters. Everyone (protagonists and supporting characters alike) is perfectly imperfect in surprising ways. People can do something frustrating or cringeworthy or infuriating or let you down, then come through for you or display hella admirable characteristics or aspects of their character, and not just in the usual expected manner or redemption arc sequence as could often be found especially in kids’ books. They act, you know, like real people do - we are often all over the place, and sporadic batshit craziness is well within the realm of everyone’s potential. I think such nuanced characterizations are rare even in adult books!

Special shout out to the author’s honest depiction of imperfect (not abusive, but imperfect) parents in both books - parenting is super hard, with no magical knowledge conveyed along with childbirth, and it’s a process of discovery, and it’s rare we get to see depictions of parents who are honestly trying to figure stuff out, struggling, doing their best, maybe doing not so great at times, but ultimately doing the hard work of trying to do “good enough” parenting with the best of intentionality and care. Super kudos for showing this with a single mom in Roller Girl, but I enjoyed the parents’ dynamic in this one too.
Profile Image for Dov Zeller.
Author 2 books105 followers
October 11, 2018
Note: Some spoilers in here.

In some ways All's Faire in Middle School closely resembles a lot of other middle school stories:

-The protagonist is new in school, in this case new TO school, and she doesn't have any friends, doesn't know how to "fit in."
-She finds herself taken in by a kind of mean-girls-ish in-crowd.
-The in-crowd-girls aren't the best, as you can imagine, and it doesn't take long for them to show their mean side and to find subtle and not-so-subtle ways of cutting the protagonist down, but the protagonist doesn't quite know how to resolve or get out of the situation.
-The mean girls are mean to someone else the main character is friendly with and the main character finds herself doing some not very nice stuff to "impress" the mean girls.
-The protagonist's unkindness to a girl who she likes and who is already being bullied by the mean girls is shared with the whole school/used by the mean girls to humiliate the main character, which brings the story to its "crisis" point.
-Now the protagonist is struggling with being an outcast, and having to stand up to/sever ties with the popular girls and find a way to make amends with the bullied girl.

What makes this book unique? Imogene or Impy, the main character, has been homeschooled before going to middle school and she grew up working with her parents at a Renaissance Faire.

In some gr reviews, people said they found Imogene's Ren Faire life to be not very engaging. I loved reading about a kid growing up in this environment--connected with a lot of quirky and delightful RF people and learning such a unique set of skills and quite a bit of history and folkore. It just all seems pretty interesting.

Imogene loves her Ren Faire life and responsibilities and family time, but sometimes she's resentful of the kind of attention her little brother needs and how that can get in the way with some of the Ren Faire activities she wants to do. Her struggle to deal with life as a big sister also creates some of the drama/tension in this book.

So, Imogen grows up homeschooled and chooses to go to middle school, has a whole set of challenges there. She struggles with being a big sister, struggles with friendships and the question of who she wants to be as a friend and as a sibling. Meanwhile she is a squire in training at the Ren Faire and taking on new roles and responsibilities there.

There is also some tension in the book that revolves around a Ren Faire friend of the family who Imogene has a crush on. He's in his twenties and Imogene is in middle school, so she knows it's not "rational" to be jealous. But, this guy has a new girlfriend and Imogene isn't too happy about that, and is a bit of a jerk to the new girlfriend. That whole situation, well, I didn't find that it added much to the story, but, there it is, another location of tension, a place for Imogene to grow as it were.

It is at the Ren Faire Imogene meets Anita, the new friend who goes to Imogene's school and who is bullied there. Their relationship is a bit strange. Anita, to protect Imogene, tells her not to talk to her at school. She also warns Imogene about the popular girls (that they can be big jerks.) Imogene doesn't seem to understand why Anita tells her it's not a good idea to talk at school, and I found that her apparent lack of understanding of Anita's warning and motives for that warning didn't make sense to me in the context of the story.

When Imogene finds herself making fun of Anita to get laughs from the mean girls, she gets caught in a way that seems to me a very typical trope for this kind of story. But, alas, it happens. Imogene's so-called friends share her personal notebook of caricatures, Imogene becomes a complete outcast at school and at home for a bit, too. She takes some of her frustration out on her brother and is responsible for the loss of his beloved stuffed animal. Everyone in her family stops talking to her? I think? It's hard for me to understand her parents' handling of all this, and the drama is a bit over-done. But, all in all I enjoyed the story and though there were a lot of wonderful moments and characters.

(I keep going back and forth between a 3 and a 4 on this one. Decided on a four because there is a girl protagonist and she is training to be a squire and there are Ren Faire sword fights and stuff...)
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,126 reviews104 followers
November 29, 2019
Although for years I had tended to majorly shy away from graphic novels as legitimate stories in and of themselves, I am definitely and certainly slowly being lured into their proverbial camp and yes, especially with regard to graphic novels for so-called middle grade readers (for ages nine to probably around twelve or thirteen). And indeed, for the most part, Victoria Jamieson's All's Faire in Middle School has once again proven to be yet another graphic novel reading joy (with Jamieson's engaging text and her brightly fun but still realistic accompanying artwork, perhaps a bit cartoony for my general aesthetic tastes, but working very well indeed in conjunction with the presented narrative and storyline) albeit also with a few personal but certainly very much annoying and textually frustrating issues with especially main protagonist Imogene's nuclear family.

For while I have definitely enjoyed the Renaissance Faire scenario and setting of All's Faire in Middle School, to be honest, I have absolutely NOT LIKED either Imogene's mother or her little brother Felix all that much, in particular how Felix is basically in my opinion coddled and constantly favoured over his older sister and how his needs and his temper tantrums always seem to count more than Imogene's wants and desires (and while of course Imogene should NOT have thrown Felix's treasured stuffed squirrel Tiffany into the pond, I can actually and from personal experience totally understand and appreciate why his sister acts, why Imogene behaves in the way she has, for her parents really do not at all seem to understand and get how much of a pain in the behind Felix can often be and also just assume that Imogene will gladly always babysit and keep Felix out of trouble).

Combined with the pre-teen drama of Imogene starting middle school with its maze of friendships lost and found, with its cliques and bullies (after having been homeschooled since grade one) and which I have all found very much relatable but also rather exaggerated by Victoria Jamieson at times (and indeed, that Mika, that the main bully never gets to experience any consequences for her nasty behaviour, while this is of course realistic and sadly so, it also has made me cringe and growl, in particular because Imogene is the only person being punished and that even her mother seems to be too strangely dense and absorbed in her Renaissance Faire life and the obvious apple of her eye Felix to even begin to notice this), while All's Faire in Middle School has certainly been enjoyable and also very much hitting close to home for me in many ways, that very hitting so close to home with regard to Imogene obviously often getting the short end of the stick so to speak (and yes, I do well understand that she has also behaved atrociously and in particular towards Anita), I do have to admit that while I have found All's Faire in Middle School generally a wonderful and delightful reading experience, I still cannot really give a higher ranking than three stars (although I do warmly recommend All's Faire in Middle School for all that).
Profile Image for Kiera.
319 reviews117 followers
December 2, 2018
Great read, really fast and realistic.
I love how the author described middle school and how imogene tried everything and discovered it is much cooler to be yourself than someone else a valuable lesson for all girls and boys of any age loved it!
3.5 stars
Profile Image for La Coccinelle.
2,245 reviews3,563 followers
September 17, 2018
Near the end of last year, I read the delightful Roller Girl. It was the best graphic novel I'd read all year (or, ever, at that point, since I was fairly new to the format). So when I saw that the author had a new book out, I was eager to have a look. Maybe it's because my expectations were really high after Roller Girl, but... I wasn't crazy about this one.

One thing I do love about Jamieson's books is that she introduces readers to experiences they might not be that familiar with. In the case of Roller Girl, it was roller derby. I learned a lot about the sport, and even wished I had the courage to try it (she made it look so fun). With All's Faire in Middle School, the focus is on Renaissance faires. The main character, Imogene, is the child of a couple of professional faire actors, so she spends a lot of time immersed in that world. That part of the book I liked. The rest of it... not so much.

There was so much focus on middle school in this book, and I just couldn't relate. The way my school system was set up, we didn't have have middle school. Elementary school went to grade 7, and high school took care of the rest. So I never really had to navigate the halls of a building that's populated almost entirely by a student body that's in the throes of puberty. I've read a few books now that deal with middle school (mostly focusing on how awful it is), and it makes me kind of glad I never had to go through that. It can be interesting, if it's done right. In the case of this book, however, my eyes kind of glazed over with all the preteen drama.

I also had issues with some of the characters. In particular, those in Imogene's family. I thought her six-year-old brother wasn't very consistent (one moment he was pretending to be pregnant and making jokes about his water breaking--do most six-year-olds even know what that means?--and the next he was running around the apartment in his underwear like a feral toddler). He was also annoying rather than cute. Then there was her father. He was kind of useless. At one point, he told his 11-year-old daughter that it was "fend for yourself" night... while he was making a nice big sandwich for himself. Sure, Imogene could probably have made herself something (although she said she'd probably be eating a handful of croutons and a slice of cheese), but expecting a 6-year-old to get his own dinner was asking a lot. Then there was the scene where he purposely tried to embarrass her at school. See, Imogene used to be homeschooled, but she wanted to try public school. Just because her parents didn't agree with her decision didn't mean it was okay for them to try to sabotage her social life.

Bullying was a topic that was addressed, but I found that a bit lacking, too. At one point, Imogene got into trouble for bullying because of the school's zero-tolerance policy. But another girl, who engaged in more habitual bullying, was never punished for anything. Was it zero-tolerance or not?

One thing about the writing that I found really annoying was the constant tense switching. Imogene's narrative was sometimes told in present tense, sometimes in past tense. But there seemed to be no reason for either, and you never knew when it was going to switch. (Sometimes both tenses were in the same text box!)

As in Roller Girl, the illustrations were adorable. They were probably my favourite part of the book, and despite this not-so-great experience, I'll probably pick up whatever Jamieson writes next. I'm excited to see what interesting experiences she'll choose to write about in the future.
Profile Image for Emma.
274 reviews14 followers
January 16, 2018
It was fun to learn about the niche culture of renaissance fairs, but this is basically a recycled plot just like thousands of other middle school coming of age novels: innocent girl goes to middle school, tries to fit in, joins with the wrong clique/mean girls crowd, bullying and general poor life decisions ensue, eventually the girl rises above by just being herself and puts the mean girl in her place. It's done well and the Faire was fun, but overall this doesn't add anything new to the middle school narrative.

I would like to see one of these same plots from the perspective of the mean girl. Just maybe all of her mean girl actions can be explained in the same way all of the innocent/new girl's actions are explained in these types of novels.
Profile Image for Sara the Librarian.
748 reviews326 followers
September 4, 2020
Despite a clever premise I reaaalllyyyy didn't like this for what some might consider minor reasons but that really colored my overall impressions of the book.

Eleven year old Imogen (horribly nicknamed Impy) has grown up in slightly odd circumstances. She's been home schooled by her parents who are permanent residents of a Renaissance Faire in Florida. Her mom kind of makes a living selling handmaid Faire souvenirs and when her dad isn't playing the evil black knight he works in a pool supply store. She's also got a very, very strange six year old brother who's best friend is a taxidermied squirrel.

Turning eleven means that Imogen is now old enough to not only start officially joining the cast of the Faire as a squire but she's also about to start public school for the first time. Both quests seem off to a pretty good start until Imogen gets caught up in trying to impress the popular girls at school and starts a feud with her brother that results in a huge rift in the family. Imogen has to find a way to apologize to the people she's hurt and overcome the trials of her early teens to find a happy ending for everyone.

Imogen herself isn't really the problem here. She's a pretty typical teen with the usual hangups and insecurities and longings. My issue is with her family. Victoria Jamieson pretty quickly sets up that Imogen's parents have done basically nothing to set her up for going to school with other kids. They seem not just blind to how their, frankly bizarre even if it sounds fun, lifestyle is pretty much branding their kid a weirdo from the first day of school but downright offended when Imogen voices her frustration with where her upbringing has left her in terms of socialization and understanding basic things like how to talk to people who don't spend every waking moment in a Renn Faire.

Then after an especially bad fight with the weird brother they treat her outright horribly, laying the blame entirely at her feet and subjecting her to the same kind of treatment she's getting from the mean girls at school. Her mother straight up refuses to talk to her for days. Its honestly awful to think of a young girl who's so scared and lonely and unsure of herself having to deal with that from the people who are meant to be guiding and helping her through such a difficult time.

There are a lot of troubling phrases like "you've just lost your way somewhere" and "I don't know what's happened to you" that make it sound like Imogen's mistakes (which amount to being taken advantage of by the popular kids and finally being unable to take her brother's shit anymore) are these immense crimes she must atone for. There's a lot of emphasis on how she has to learn that she's not the center of the universe but no real examples of her ever really thinking that.

Imogen basically spends the last act of the book desperately trying to get everyone to forgive her and it comes off way too much as the victim of an abusive situation apologizing to the abuser and not nearly enough like a kid who was kind of mean to her brother and got mad at her parents.

I kind of feel like these people would really benefit from family therapy and a few days off from the Faire.
Profile Image for Nat.
554 reviews3,178 followers
September 21, 2019
A great follow-up to Roller Girl.

I do wish that more time would've been spent exploring Imogine school experience. But I think it covered beautifully how quickly middle school can make us forget our true values to gain the "respect" of a popular girl. The author handled Imogene's growth with great interest. I do wish the mother would've been a bit more on her side, at least as much as she is with Imogene's brother.

Check out an excerpt through my Amazon Affiliate:

This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,563 reviews88 followers
July 13, 2020
This graphic novel tells the story of a girl entering middle school. This is already something difficult and terrifying to do, but her situation is more complicated. She was homeschooled for elementary school and her family works at a renaissance fair. Due to her unusual background, she finds it difficult to manage social life at school and has to make a lot of tough decisions about who she is and what is important to her.

I think anyone who comes from an unusual background can identify with this story. The struggle to be "normal" in middle schools is a real ordeal that many people face. This graphic novel has a good message for readers who might be dealing with this struggle (and even for those of us who have had that experience in the past).
Profile Image for Darla.
3,354 reviews528 followers
January 1, 2021
"It's not easy being a brave and honorable knight in the complicated world of middle school."

Victoria Jamieson has done it again. Her middle grade graphic about Imogene, formerly homeschooled and part of a "fairemily," and her quest into the halls of middle school is right on target. Now that I have rearview perspective on my own middle school years, I realize that everyone was unsure of themselves. It just comes out in different ways. How about you? Were you the princess, the dragon, or St. George? Which route will Imogene choose. Spoiler alert: being the princess is not what you think.
I loved the way Jamieson seamlessly wove in the Renaissance Fair and at the same time kept the book timeline on track with the event. Really well done and even better than I expected it to be.
Profile Image for Ellen.
617 reviews2 followers
September 19, 2017
Full color graphic novel, friendship, homeschooling, new school, sexuality, growing up, socioeconomic differences, popularity, good vs. evil, racism, mixed race

Will definitely be a hit with Telgemeier/Jamieson fans, but I felt that she tried to tackle too many issues (see above) and never fully fleshed out any of them as a result.
Profile Image for Amy.
587 reviews28 followers
June 6, 2018
Another book that I would have loved as a kid but my old lady (36 years old) curmudgeonly brain can't get over the familiar tropes and YA angst. Highly recommend to the middle grade/YA crowd. Tentative recommend to the old lady crowd.
Profile Image for Christy.
654 reviews
August 18, 2021
I LOVE Middle Grade Graphic Novels. They are such a delight and teach really good life lessons for kids in this age group, without the annoying YA stuff I usually do not like. Victoria Jamieson is three for three for me. I will read any other middle grade stuff she does in the future!
Profile Image for Lata.
3,606 reviews192 followers
May 8, 2019
Imogene and her family work at a Renaissance fair every year, and it's a huge part of Imogene's life. She's helped her mother for some years in her shop, and knows all the actors at the faire. This year, Imogene will become a squire, and will be able to properly look the part while cheering her dad, one of the actors, at his Knight activities and events.
Imogene starts middle school after being homeschooled for years. She is quickly included in a popular girl's group, which helps her interact with others, even while she copes with the different classes, teaches and a new part of life, homework.
Imogene begins finding fitting in at school to be increasingly complicated and fraught with difficult decisions regarding how best to fit in. Imogene's increasing confusion is amplified when she meets a classmate at the Fair and gets along well with her, but with whom she can't socialize at school, as the girl is bullied by the popular girl and others at school.
Imogene makes a series of poor decisions, and the remainder of the story is how she deals with the outcomes.
I absolutely loved "Roller Girl", so I had to read this. And though I'm totally uninterested in Renaissance fairs, it was a nice backdrop to this fish out of water story. Imogene has a lot of new experiences, and how she learns from her mistakes and grows up a little is nicely handled.
Profile Image for Raina.
1,596 reviews125 followers
November 13, 2018
Life is all about niches. Subcultures. Communities. Living in 2018, I'm struck by how tunnel-visiony everyones lives are on a daily basis.

Imogene is part of the reinactment/RenFaire community. She's also homeschooled, which can be a subcultural experience itself. But this year, she's starting public middle school. And joining this new community forces her to define herself in new ways.

When I first heard of this book, I figured it would be one I strongly identified with. I was homeschooled, I loved Jamieson's previous work, and I have family members deeply involved in the reinactment/SCA community.
Probably BECAUSE I was expecting a lot of alignment, I was more struck by the things that were different from my experience. RenFaire is very different from SCA. Their homeschooling context was very different from my homeschooling context.
Jamieson's chops are all the strong. This is an accessible story well told. It will have no problem finding the right audience.

Profile Image for Xueting.
265 reviews124 followers
May 1, 2018
I LOVED Victoria Jamieson’s previous graphic novel, “Rollergirl,” so I was super excited to read this one. It did not disappoint. It’s more than your standard fare of a new girl who struggles to fit in at middle school. The renaissance faire stuff fit in very naturally and meaningfully with the middle school storyline, making the story unique. I also like that Imogene, our protagonist, doesn’t completely fall prey to the Popular Girls. She’s perceptive; she naturally wants to fit in and be liked by her classmates, but she also recognises and questions the mean, bullying behaviour of the popular girls against her and others too. I really love how Jamieson depicted the renaissance faire too, the family among the actors, and the idea of pretending you’re in another time and world. I’ve never been to a faire (living in Singapore all my life) and I really want to go to one now!!
Profile Image for Mehsi.
11.9k reviews361 followers
January 9, 2019
A girl, always homeschooled, starts with middle school and deals with all the confusing things there. Sadly, this one and I weren't meant to be.

I was very excited to start this one, I loved the author's other graphic novel, Roller Girl, and so I couldn't wait to start this one. Sadly, it had good moments, but it also had many eh moments. Many many of those in the end.

I loved the Ren fair, and that she was eventually working there. Helping out her dad, trying to become a knight, juggling class and more, the craftshop her mom had (I want a wreath), the characters who worked there and the characters they played in the fair, the way they tried to make everything fun for the people who visited, the stories they told each year. It was just so much fun, and it reminded me of the time I visited Elfia.

I was also curious about this girl and how she went from homeschooled (something still so foreign to me and something I mostly only see in books or movies from the US) to middle school. But as soon as she hit MS she changed. From a sweet girl to a girl who should just talk about things for once and stop being so whiny. Also, given that she works at the fair, has so many social things happening around her, her social skills were pretty eh. Anyone knew that the group of girls were bad news, yet our MC sticks to them. And I get that somehow, it is a confusing place, but still, there were people who wanted to be her friends. Anita, the boy who sat next to her in class, one of the girls from the mean girl clique (who was nice).

What she did to her brother's toy? Who the actual hell does that? I mean that is just ridiculous and hurtful. I get that she did it in a moment of anger, but it doesn't make it better. I did like that she tried to make amends for what she did, but I can also imagine that her brother didn't want to accept those amends.

I also didn't like how she treated Anita. You can't just treat someone shitty at one place and then happy go lucky at another. That is just hurtful and mean.

Plus, why was she so mean towards the girlfriend of Kit? Sure, she liked him (a lot it seems even if she says she isn't doing that), but come on that girl is the sweetest and you treat her like that. She is trying to help you out, be there for you, is kind to you... Thankfully, later they do get closer, but it took a bit too long for me.

I was also a bit bored, the book seemed to go on and on and on.

Something that amazed me was that she was accused of bullying, and even got punishment for bullying due to some drawings she made. That someone ELSE spread around as her journal was stolen. Other than that one drawing of Anita, I don't see how it is bullying. Isn't every kid frustrated with their teacher? At least once? And don't you want to throw that frustration at something? So you draw. Or you write things. I know I have done that. I know other kids from my school did it. And really, you don't want to read my diary from that time. I had a pretty shitty time, and I drew, I wrote. If that is bullying, well fuck it, maybe you should go to actual bullies instead of focusing on a kid that is unhappy and feels unsure about what to do. But, I guess this Murica for you. I have read enough books to see that they are very easy in throwing the bullying thing around. I believe I even read one book were two characters had an argument (just an argument) and they got counselling for bullying. What the actual hell?

No. Also what was up with those parents? The way they treated Imogen... Hello that is not how parenting works :/ From what I could see while reading the parents just ignored her, stayed angry at her, at least the mom did. The dad eventually mellowed and talked to her. But sorry, that is just not how things should work. I get that she disappointed you, though again, not bullying, I get that she is frustrating as hell, I get that she has done some incredibly stupid things, I get that she has gone full puberty and is kicking against everything. And yes, you can be angry, but it is still your kid. Why are you treating her like this? Talk to her. Chat with her. Make sure she is OK. Because anyone can see she is not doing well.

The art was also pretty good, then again, I knew it would be good as I also liked the art in Roller Girl.

But yeah, all in all, this was quite frustrating at times. I am rating this book 1.5 stars for the art, for the fair, and for the old Imogen.

Review first posted at https://twirlingbookprincess.com/
Profile Image for Mississippi Library Commission.
389 reviews74 followers
September 13, 2017
Victoria Jamieson's follow-up to Roller Girl is practically perfect in every way. Impy and her family are part of the Renaissance Fair world. They work and breathe 15th and 16th century Europe smack-dab in the middle of Florida, all day, every day, until newly dubbed squire Impy departs upon an important quest: middle school. Her close-knit world of Ren Faire lovers and homeschool are drastically different from the crowded middle school she begins to attend. Although she struggles to fit in and "be normal", some of the changes she begins to see in herself seem more fitting for the villain of a story than the knight in shining armor she hopes to be. Jamieson has created a fully realized backdrop for this tale of pre-teen worries and woe and peppered it with endearing and lovable characters. (We're looking at you, Anita!) The artwork is bright and lively, wrapping the whole delightful shebang into a superb comic about friendship, family, and being true to yourself.
Profile Image for steph .
1,213 reviews72 followers
November 6, 2017
3.5 stars

Cute book. Pretty sub-standard middle school plot line - new girl, having a hard time fitting in, mean girls etc., but with the addition of the Renaissance fair setting (Impy's parents and their fellow actors were so well done). The illustrations were great though, I really liked how the author drew background character's facial expressions. Even if they didn't speak during that particular panel I still understand their opinions/feeling/etc.

I still prefer Awkward or Sunny Side Up for middle school graphic readers but this one wasn't bad. Just not my favorite.
Profile Image for Mary.
2,607 reviews11 followers
June 27, 2017
This is an impossible-to-put down graphic novel about a Renaissance Faire knight-in-training homeschooler, Imogene (Impy), who is starting public school for the first time. Impy's family life is socially and economically tied to the local Renaissance Faire so she has grown up in an unconventional household. She is eager to enter a "normal" environment and make "normal" friends. Impy learns some tough lessons about friendship, family, and that being true to one's self is the real normal. Jamieson has again told an entertaining story with a big-hearted, inclusive message.
Profile Image for Hannah.
Author 5 books206 followers
January 21, 2018
I didn't love this as much as Roller Girl in the reading experience, but I do think it's a really brilliantly rendered portrait of middle school. It doesn't shy away from showing how truly mean tweens can be to each other, rather than melodramatic and/or comical meanness you see in a lot of other middle grade. This book also gets points for parents who seem really real. I also really appreciated how it showed the lower middle class, because I feel like we don't see that in books. The Vega family doesn't live in abject poverty, but they have to watch their finances and work extra jobs, and that really resonated with me and my experience when I was around Imogene's age. Good stuff.
Profile Image for Lauren.
294 reviews7 followers
January 25, 2018
Great readalike for Raina Telgemeier, Roller Girl, Dork Diaries, kids who liked Beverly Cleary when they were younger. Realistic story about family, friendship, and the middle school (*shudder*), but has a small doorway for historical fantasy/game nerd kids (and adults) through the Renaissance Faire plot thread. Art is fun and cute but also subtly complex. Story is deceivingly complex as well; one of my favorite aspects is that kids' emotions and motivations (and adults emotions too!) are not simplified, and "good" and "bad" are complicated.
Profile Image for Sam (she_who_reads_).
638 reviews14 followers
June 5, 2019
Possibly my new favourite middle grade graphic novel! This follows Imogene, whose family works at the Renaissance Faire, as she starts middle school after being homeschooled her whole life. Imogene has to navigate a whole host of challenges that come with a new school, new experiences, new people, and a new job at the Faire. It was so sweet and the art was adorable! This is jam packed with empowering messages for young people and I absolutely cannot wait to share it with my daughter!! HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Profile Image for Brittany.
1,035 reviews17 followers
September 12, 2017
I absolutely adored Imogene. She makes a lot of big mistakes, but she learns from them too. Regardless of whether or not you've ever been homeschooled, I think her middle school experience rings true and every middle schooler is going to identify with at least one aspect of it. The renaissance faire setting adds a unique appeal and helps move the story forward. First in Roller Girl and now with this, Victoria Jamieson has a knack for writing irresistible, underdog-esque characters.
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