The school year is over. Middle school friends Tomoko, Jules, Bree, Shelly and Kensie are all looking forward to a summer packed with skating, swimming, snack-eating and fun. Of course, their idea of fun is generally focused on skating, period. They’re all part of a girl’s roller derby team called the Derby Daredevils, and that’s pretty much all they want to do.
The girls even play other games while in pads and skates, just to keep improving their derby skills in creative ways. Tomoko created a skating-basketball game hybrid that she’s teaching her team, for instance. It combines the three things she loves most: skating, basketball and friends.
Yep, Tomoko, or the “Tomonater” as her friends call her on the rink, is pretty certain that this summer is gonna be great!
Just as school lets out, though, Tomoko’s dreams of summer fun in their hometown of Austin, Texas, are given an uncomfortable shake. The roller derby league coaches announce a special opportunity for the Austin-based teams to join up with a league from Dallas. They’ll all be a part of a combined summer roller derby camp!
The girls all go nuts.
Tomoko, however, is the only one who doesn’t cheer. It’s not that it wouldn’t be fun to travel to Dallas and work up some great new moves. And it’s not that she wouldn’t really enjoy the adventure with her friends. It’s just … a little nerve-racking. She’s not so great at meeting new people. In fact, the girls on the Daredevils are pretty much the first real friends Tomoko’s ever had.
You see, Tomoko has been teased a lot in the past because she’s taller and bigger than most of the girls her age. Being big is great for a roller derby player, but it makes her a target for mean-spirited kids who want to pick on somebody who’s a bit different. And if people aren’t picking on that aspect of who she is, then there’s her Asian-American background, which sometimes prompts people to say things that are almost accidentally offensive.
Years of that treatment have shaped Tomoko into the person she is: someone a little too shy, a little too awkward around strangers and not as sure of herself as she should be.
Tomoko can’t help but wonder if this trip to Dallas will bring all her fears and feelings back to the surface again. Can she still be the good friend and leader she’s started to become? Can she be the Tomonater? Or will she find herself withdrawing into the quiet, awkward girl she had been for so long? How will she deal with new places and new, potentially mean, faces?