Dungeons & ­Dragons: Dungeon Club: Roll Call

HarperAlley. (Dungeons & ­Dragons: Dungeon Club: Bk 1). Nov. 2022. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063039247.
Gr 4 Up–Jess Descheene and Olivia Aguilar have been best friends for years, but as eighth grade begins, their friendship is changing. Olivia runs their two-person Dungeons & Dragons game, but she wants to invite more players. Jess prefers stories to friends, but she gradually opens up to the idea of letting more kids play with them. The action happens between the real world and the imaginary one, but sometimes the worlds overlap. Jess sees school through a D&D lens, looking at other students and imagining their character sheets, using criteria like “popularity class” and “bully potential.” In one of the most striking images of the story, Jess sees some other girls in the school bathroom, and in the mirror they are reflected as monsters. Bouma’s artwork is very appealing, with colors ranging from cool earth tones to bolder and brighter shades, depending on the location and emotion of each scene. While this is an ultimately uplifting story, these students deal with absent parents, school bullies, and learning to be brave enough to stand up for their friends. Jess begins this book thinking that going to middle school is harder than slaying monsters, but she evolves over time and learns that both her game and her heart are big enough to make room for new people.
VERDICT For readers who are fans of or are curious about role-playing games, or those seeking heartwarming stories about friendship and imagination.

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