Prendergast, who hails from Vancouver, B.C., pulls out all the stops in this action-packed coming-of-age tale fraught with familial and societal dysfunction.
When her family moves east from a tiny bungalow near the beach to a large house on the plains, 16-year-old misfit Raphaelle decides this new beginning calls for a little self-reinvention. Changing her name to Ella, Raphaelle narrates the various stages of her transformation, saying, “I have screwed around long enough. / I come to you a reformed girl,” and vowing not to make waves in her new environment. But when kids at her new high school start to isolate her— “What’s Ella short for? Elephant?”—and domestic pressures close in, Ella finds herself returning to her more radical, artistic side for release. She also finds herself seeking the comfort and affection of fellow art-class student Sam (short for Samir), who happens to be a Palestinian Muslim. When invited to contribute to the school art show, Ella and Sam create striking works that land both, in different ways, at the center of heated controversy. Though the narrative’s graphic plotting at times proves heavy-handed, Prendergast offers great insight into teen psychology—especially that of the outcast—and boldly probes sensitive topics like religious prejudice, sex, censorship and eating disorders.
A provocatively modern test of understanding difference. (Verse fiction. 14 & up)