Table Titans Club by Scott Kurtz

Y’all. Y’ALL! So many books about girls getting into D&D focus way too much on nonsensical interpersonal drama that often reveals the author’s inability to process their own emotions, but this? THIS?! Is the best book on being a young female roleplayer I’ve read in possibly forEVER.

Val Winters is less than thrilled to be moving to a new city and a new school yet again. Her mom promises that the move to this city should be the last one, what with her new job providing greater stability than before. And if Val can stay out of trouble and not get into fights, then this should be her last school transfer for a good long while too.

Thing is, Val is kind of a dreamer, with a healthy imagination and a disregard for social appropriateness. She’s also smart as a whip, and not afraid to get physical when the situation calls for it. When a chance remark prompts one of her new classmates to invite her to join their school-sponsored D&D game — to the dismay of several of their peers — this sets her on a journey of discovery and friendship that will make life better for the entire Table Titans Club, as her new group of friends is called.

Hand to God, Val reminds me of me at that age (and maybe also at this age, lol.) I only wish I’d been lucky enough to be able to join an RPG group in middle school. I loved Val’s courage and her utter disregard for not standing out. Perhaps even more importantly, I deeply admired Scott Kurtz’ excellent and not at all preachy way of explaining why she’s like this, and why that prompts consternation and sometimes outright hostility from others. Honestly, this is invaluable information for kids who didn’t grow up as bizarrely self-assured as I did.

The RPG representation is outstanding — and pace, my fellow indie game writers, I know that D&D is like the only game anyone ever seems to talk about. Just remember that it’s a gateway game to our ever more interesting systems! — with realistic scenes of the TTC gathering to play and actually acting out their characters. The cast is terrific throughout, down to the thoughtful representation in the supporting cast, and I greatly enjoyed Val’s dynamic with her mom. Perhaps nothing made me adore this book more than the evolving relationship between Val and self-conscious popular girl Kate tho. It would have been SO EASY for Mr Kurtz to make Kate an outright villain but I found her just as relatable as Val, tho for very different reasons. As someone who spent years wanting to game but who always had to settle for the fringes until I hit my mid-20s and finally had the opportunity to play and not just read and observe, I greatly identified with Kate’s yearning.

Mr Kurtz’ art is also brilliant, with never a moment of confusion from one panel to the next. His layouts are exceptional in their clarity, a testament to his award-winning career as the cartoonist behind the critically acclaimed PvP webcomic (and related adult Table Titans comics; more on that below.) You can also see why he rates his colorist Steve Hamaker so highly, as the colors here really bring both the real world and imaginary shenanigans to entertaining life.

Smart, funny, inspiring and poignant, this is the perfect middle grade graphic novel to give to any kid who’s interested in RPGs and who, perhaps, is having trouble fitting in at school. While there’s an entire book series dedicated to the grown-up lives and gaming of some of these characters, you don’t have to have read anything else to thoroughly enjoy this terrific volume. I super hope that there are lots more of these to come, and soon!

Table Titans Club by Scott Kurtz was published March 5 2024 by Holiday House and is available from all good booksellers, including

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