New in town after her mother’s virtual abandonment, Dorothy immediately runs into trouble with her middle school’s popular girls, especially the angry and unhappy Alex.
Her problems are further complicated by her racy grandmother, a retired funeral-home operator and former roller-derby star who thrives on conflict. Dorothy makes friends with a few of her school’s outcasts, but the whole group is attacked at the local roller rink by some of the popular girls. This, with some help from Grandma, inspires them to form a roller-derby team—quite a feat, since not all of them even know how to roller skate. Rising to the top of team competition, they move on to the finals, but only good coaching and smart strategizing will lead them to a win there. The largely stock characters are predictable, as are many of the conflicts they face, including Dorothy’s absent mother and Alex’s embarrassment over having two dads. A surfeit of subplots competes for attention with the apparent aim of female self-realization. Those expecting a zombie or two will be disappointed: The titular “Undead Redhead” is just Dorothy’s team name. Occasional graphic-novel–style panels accompany the text, adding a flavor of the lively action of derby bouts.
While roller-derby tales are virtually nonexistent, this average effort has little to propel it past other athlete-focused tales. (Fiction. 9-12)