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ROLL CALL by Molly Knox Ostertag


From the Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Club series, volume 1

by Molly Knox Ostertag ; illustrated by Xanthe Bouma

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-06-303924-7
Publisher: HarperAlley

Role-playing and real life are inextricably intertwined in this Dungeons & Dragons–themed story of middle-grade woes.

Up-and-coming eighth graders Jess, who has light brown skin, and Olivia, who presents as Black and Latine, have been inseparable since third grade. Though Jess may not be socially adept (“I’m not good at friends, but I’m good at stories”), she has a firm friend in Olivia, and the two bond over role-playing games, Olivia acting as Dungeon Master while Jess engages in quests as the hero Sir Corius. Then Olivia suggests starting a Dungeons & Dragons club at school, an idea that change-averse Jess becomes determined to thwart. The duo becomes a trio when another member joins the club, and Jess, feeling frustrated and vulnerable as things change even more, ends up hurting Olivia. Now Jess will have to dig deep to become a hero in real life. The back and forth between reality and the game’s quest is interspliced expertly, never confusing readers with the switches. Ostertag deftly shows how elements of the game bleed into Jess’ real life, like seeing core stats for kids at school floating about their heads. As the real and the fantastical blend into one another, readers will root for Jess even as her poor choices are hard to disregard. Bouma’s engaging art will surely lure in fans of realistic comics.

Scoring high on charisma, this tale of personal growth is bound to win many a curious young fan over to D&D’s allure.

(Graphic novel. 9-12)