Sixth grader Riley’s best (and only) friend is her older brother, Devin, who’s left Florida for California and college; now she’s facing middle school alone. Having to learn independence without Devin’s guidance and hand-holding, she decides to write a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for him so when he comes home for the holidays, she can take a turn as their Dungeon Master. But Riley draws the attention of Lucy, a neighbor Riley thought was too cool for her, who wants to play D&D. Soon they’re joined by Hannah, a high-energy neighbor from their apartment building, and Jen, an artistic, high-achiever classmate. Riley’s emotional, sensitive nature—which causes her social anxiety—enables her to perceive the insecurities of those closest to her and support them. Her growing confidence is challenged by her brother’s purist take on D&D, however, especially when his own emotional fragility brings him home early, expecting to take on his old caretaker role and cramping her newly autonomous style and social life. The D&D elements give enough detail to guide a new player and capture the tabletop game vibe without overwhelming the narrative. The interpersonal conflicts are all based in affection and care, and the ending rewards Riley’s growth. Riley, her family, and Hannah are White; Jen is Black, and Lucy has a Black father and White mother. Spot art enhances the text.
Maxes out its stats in empathy, creativity, and character growth. (Fiction. 8-14)
"Roll for Initiative will fan your creative spark and make you feel like you can do anything. I wish I were lucky enough to play a game at Riley’s table."—Amy Ratcliffe, author of Star Wars: Elee and Me and A Kid’s Guide to Fandom