Review by Booklist Review
After surviving an accident that her parents did not, Daya starts developing some self-destructive habits and doesn't allow anyone to help her cope or grow. Mostly, she's fixated on collecting as many bruises as possible (descriptions of her self-harm are often detailed), so the physical pain can distract her from her emotional agony. When a pal introduces her to the world of roller derby, she seizes the opportunity to dole out as well as receive pain, without knowing the full extent of what she is getting into. Boteju immerses the reader into Daya's head and, in a slow burn, reveals her steady changes. It's clear how different people and circumstances, such as playing a team sport for the first time, begin crack Daya's armor and, little by little, she's able to work on herself--maybe even fall in love? It's all worth it by the end, and readers will be rewarded with Daya's true growth and introspection. This book is a given for any older teen who loved the movie Whip It.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Eighteen-year-old Daya Wijesinghe is tough, just like her boxer father taught her to be. When her parents, both Sri Lankan immigrants, die in a car crash that she survives, that toughness becomes a shield as she bruises herself to cope with her grief. A year and a half after the accident, she learns about roller derby--seemingly the perfect way to get some new bruises. But skating with the Killa Honeys is appealing in ways she never expected, and Daya begins to learn that there's strength and healing to be found in softness--if only she can overcome her fear of opening up. Boteju (Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens) sensitively handles Daya's post-accident trauma, struggles with intimacy, and growing understanding of her own sexuality. Characterization is sometimes inconsistent (one character chastises Daya for being needlessly confrontational in one scene, then goads her into being so in another), but an infectious enthusiasm for roller derby and Daya's persuasive journey to self-knowledge and acceptance--aided by a spirited, intersectionally inclusive cast--provide fun and emotional resonance in equal measure. Includes an overview of the sport. Ages 14--up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret. (Mar.)■
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Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--Daya Wijesinghe's parents died suddenly in a car crash and she manages her grief and emotions by causing herself physical pain. She discovers skateboarding and relishes the bumps and bruises that come from falling, which is a pain she can control. One day her friend from the skatepark, Fee, introduces her to roller derby. She also meets Shanti, the manager of the roller derby team, The Killa Honeys, who makes Daya want to open up and feel the feelings she has long repressed. Roller derby seems like the best opportunity to fulfill her need for pain and bruising so she tries out for the team, but finds that being part of a team makes it more difficult to hide her emotions. When Daya officially makes the team and participates in their "shenanigans," she quickly realizes roller derby isn't only about getting the most bruises or being the strongest person but being a part of something outside herself and her pain. Daya is Sri Lankan, and most major characters are people of color. Fee is gender nonconforming and their girlfriend is deaf and uses ASL. At first, Daya is unsure about her own sexuality, but soon realizes she truly cares for Shanti and that her sexuality doesn't have to be rigidly defined. The book also contains information about the history of roller derby. VERDICT An emotional story about coming to terms with grief and guilt and allowing yourself to open up to others to heal. An uplifting and engaging title for all YA collections.--Kristyn Dorfman, The Nightingale-Bamford Sch., New York City
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Eighteen-year-old Daya tries to navigate life after the sudden deaths of her parents in a car accident. Daya Wijesinghe is familiar with pain and finds comfort in it. Pain is how she copes with her feelings, and the bruises she gets from skateboarding are her way of keeping the hurt on the surface. Upon being introduced to roller derby by her friend Fee, Daya is fascinated by the sport that to her seems driven by brute strength--until she ventures in further. While roller derby gives Daya the external bruises she wants, she discovers a place of deep reckoning and healing through this sport as well. Boteju writes with acumen about the roller-coaster ride of being a teenager. Daya is both a highly frustrating and deeply engaging character, with a strong character arc. Readers get to see her many shades, both in terms of her personality (hard shell plus vulnerability) and her bruises (physical, including from self-harm, and psychological). Daya is of Sri Lankan descent and queer. Some secondary characters are gender-nonconforming and queer; Fee uses they/them pronouns, and their girlfriend is deaf and uses ASL. The backmatter includes a fascinating brief history of roller derby, focusing on the strong and inclusive community that has grown up around it. A searing portrait of self-discovery; soulful and captivating. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.