In this text-and-graphic mashup, a gift from a novelist on a school visit opens up a world of possibilities for Ophelia, a white Quebec teen.
Sensing that 10th-grader Ophelia is troubled, the writer gives her a blank notebook which lights a fire inside her. In it, Ophelia charts her rocky course from emotional isolation toward self-acceptance and friendship. Her year in foster care at age 8 and molestation two years later by her single mother’s boyfriend have eroded the trust between mother and daughter. Ophelia dresses in body-disguising layers, works at a dollar store, occasionally shoplifts, and sneaks out at night, tagging walls with her signature broken-heart graffiti. Discovering a derelict building, she claims it as her creative refuge only to learn that an overweight classmate, another social outcast, has laid claim to it, retreating there to dream of journeying around the world. Reluctantly dividing the space, each makes tentative forays into the other’s world. As they find the courage to look beyond their own pain, they befriend two lesbian classmates and recognize that the hijab-wearing Muslim girls at school are experiencing rejection too. Text and art mesh subtly, the latter ranging from semi-abstract to finely detailed collages, emphatic and powerful. Words scrawled in and over the art are in the original French, their meaning rewarding readers’ investigation but not essential for appreciating their impact.
A spare, emotionally evocative coming-of-age journey. (Fiction. 12-15)