Lonely young Hélène begins to get out from under her body-image issue with help from a new friend—and Jane Eyre.
Weighed down by cruel graffiti (“Hélène weighs 216!”—a figure belied, later, by the “88” on a doctor’s scale but not before the damage is done) as well as looks and snickers from her former circle, Hélène walks slump-shouldered and isolated through a dreary world rendered in sepia wash. A class trip to nature camp brings no relief, as it entails a painful expedition to buy a swimsuit (“I’m a sausage”) and then exile to the “outcasts’ tent.” Only following Jane Eyre’s growth into a woman “clever, slender and wise” lightens her spirit. Then a brief encounter with a fox and the arrival of Géraldine, an extroverted fellow camper, signal at last the beginnings of a brighter outlook. Hand-lettered but easily legible, her sparely told narrative suits the swiftly drawn look of the art. Ably capturing Hélène’s emotional tides, Arsenault portrays her (as a child of plainly average build) in dark sequential panels that give way when she’s reading or dreaming to full spreads, usually in subdued tones of orange and blue. Those colors and others show up as highlights in closing scenes that are capped by a final glimpse of the bright fox amid burgeoning greenery.
A sensitive and possibly reassuring take on a psychological vulnerability that is all too common and not easily defended. (Graphic novel. 10-13)