Like many people my age, the 2009 film, Whip It, was my introduction to roller derby. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the tough, brave people who take on pun-heavy names and race around a track to score points. Another fascination of mine is science fiction, particularly those stories that speak to issues of oppression and marginalization in unique yet apt ways. So Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars is a series that captured my attention immediately.

Trish is a fifteen-year-old girl (seven in Mars years) who works with her aunt and uncle on their struggling farm harvesting water from the land. They live on Mars along with other Earth colonists, called Terrans, after the Meltdown, Earth’s catastrophic environmental collapse. Most of the colonists are in ruinous debt to Arex, a corporation that leads the colonization efforts on Mars. Trish’s dream is to become a hover derby star, a sport identical to roller derby except it uses hover-skates instead of wheels. When she’s offered an internship position as a skategirl, she’s overjoyedbut her dedication to the team strains her relationship with her family, who need her working in order to scrape by on the farm. Her troubles are compounded when a native Martiana race hated and feared by all of the Terransshows up on the farm, begging for help. Between nursing the Martian back to health, skipping school to be a skategirl, and trying to prevent her family from economic despair, Trish struggles to stay afloat.

The worldbuilding is detailed and fascinating, complete with wiki-like entries about the history of the Mars colony and the sport of hoverderby in the back matter. It sticks close to themes that are common in science fictioncorporate overlords, heart-pounding hover-sports, oppressed native peopleswhile integrating fresh, interesting details, such as the Terrans’ aversion to wheels and the specter of the “TLA,” an indentured work assignment for those who have accrued more debt than they can ever pay. Trish’s community is diverse and believable, and the Mars colony is made up of people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Though the setting is complex, it is never overwhelming or unwieldy; the story moves quickly enough to be exciting, but never so fast that I felt confused or left behind.

That being said, the weakest moment of Trish Trash is its ending. The conclusion ties up so neatly and quickly that it is unsatisfying, and the romance between Trish and a minor character is sparse and underdeveloped. Though the story builds at a satisfying pace throughout the first three-quarters of the book, it leads to a rushed finale. The art is vibrant and kinetic, and the panels benefit from the oversized nature of the book. Lydia Roberts’ backgrounds are detailed and arresting, giving the layout of Mars a consistent and believable look that is as much a character in the story as Trish herself. Abel’s characters have a wide variety of builds and skin tones, and their clothes are realistic and functional. The design of the book as a whole is undeniably impressive, and it’s absolutely worth the extra space on the shelf for its slightly taller height. The book includes the complete series and additional context in the form of encyclopedia entries in the back.

The book would fit in well with a teen comics collection, though it has broad age appeal; the complexity of the society coupled with themes of economic anxiety, indentured servitude, and immigration mark it as a book that may be more interesting to an older crowd. Though fans of Whip It or popular roller-centric comic series Slam! may find this book light on the actual details of derby, enough of the details of the sport are there that it is likely a satisfying read. And for those without much experience in derby but an enthusiasm for detailed, modern sci-fi epics like Saga or Bitch Planet, Trish Trash provides all the joy of a beautifully rendered Mars colony filled with resourceful young women determined to protect one another and push back against a tyrannical society.

Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars (Collected Edition)
By Jessica Abel
ISBN: 9781545801673
Super Genius, 2019

  • Madison

    Past Reviewer

    Madison Bishop currently works as the Youth Services Librarian at the Plymouth Public Library in Plymouth, MA, where she's learned that her lifelong love of Betty and Veronica, X-Men, and Sailor Moon actually comes in handy when talking to kids and teens about their favorite books. She got her B.A. in Comparative American Studies from Oberlin College in 2015 and her MLIS from Simmons College in 2017. She maintains a personal review blog, Maddie Reads, where she mostly writes about YA books with LGBTQ+ characters and superhero comics written or illustrated by women. When she's not working, reading, or writing, Madison can be found trying out new vegan recipes, watching slasher movies, or pretending that zombies are chasing her on the treadmill.

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