I honestly don’t remember pre-ordering this, but I’m glad I did! The magic of a book showing up like a little unexpected gift in my mailbox never gets old. Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Club: Roll Call has an unwieldy title but is a sweet middle grade graphic novel about using D&D and the power of imagination to build friendships and overcome fears. Olivia and Jess are best friends who love playing D&D together, but when Olivia decides to start a D&D club at school and get more people to play with them, Jess is threatened. She’s always been fine with just the two of them hanging out, so why does Olivia want more people involved? Add in Olivia running for student council and Jess’s enemy Tyler joining the club, and Jess is way outside of her comfort zone.
I related a lot to Jess and I liked that she has to learn to let in other people and rely on the power of friendship and trust. I always think it’s a nice element to have a good at heart character who makes bad decisions and lashes out, and Jess fills that role really well. Her complicated feelings about Tyler make sense, and the scene where she bullies him in the same way she was bullied is powerful. I also liked Jess’s supportive dad and how her feelings about her absent mother are unresolved, as is the conflict between Olivia and her mom over whether D&D is a worthwhile pursuit. Hopefully this is setting things up for a sequel, but if not it still speaks to the complexity of real life and that not all interpersonal problems will be tied up in a neat bow (update: after googling, apparently this is the first in a trilogy! Very exciting!).
Xanthe Bouma’s art is very clear and expressive, and the coloring by Amelia Allore is vibrant and evocative. I enjoyed the premium feel of the hardcover, and I liked the cute surprise under the dust jacket! All in all, a fun read and recommended for adults or kids who love D&D or are generally nerdy and shy.
Warnings for bullying, fights, feeling abandoned by your mom