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The ballad of ophelia and ulysses

Teenage outcasts overcome severe insecurities to find love and their voices

Editor’s Choice

Ophelia Charlotte Gingras and Daniel Sylvestre, ill.; Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou, trans. Groundwood Books, Ages 14+ nO One texts in the YA novel Ophelia, or Snapchats, plays video games, or watches YouTube. The characters still do teenager-y things – graffiti alleyways, have sex, gossip, bully, and body shame each other – they just do it in person instead of on social media. It could be that Montreal author Charlotte Gingras has set her work a couple decades in the past – the book never says – but more likely she eschews all the techy noise in order to quietly explore how painting, writing, and building things with your hands can be the outlet that helps a person get t hrough the hell that is high school. The main character calls herself Ophelia after seeing a production of Hamlet and finding beauty in the prince’s girlfriend after she drowns herself: “as though she were asleep on the riverbed.” The other students call Ophelia “rag girl” because she hides herself under layers of oversized clothes (think Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club). Ophelia rarely speaks at school until one day an author visits her Grade 10 class and she’s engaged enough to ask, “Why do you write? What’s the point in writing?” Afterward, the speaker – named Jeanne D’Amour – gives Ophelia a blue notebook, with the author’s address written in it.

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