To the tune of “It was Agatha, all along!” I keep singing, “It was O-phelia, after all!”
All right, all right, now that you’ve cringed at me, I have some things to say about the newly released young adult novel Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie!
To all her friends and family, Ophelia Rojas is the boy-crazy, Cuban-food-loving, rose-obsessed Ophelia she’s always been. Even in her own eyes, Ophelia has consistently embodied these distinct “Ophelia” traits. As prom and graduation approach, Ophelia and her friends prepare what they’re going to wear to the big dance, who their dates will be, and which roses will be a part of their corsages. However, Ophelia also begins thinking about a girl in her class the way she has never thought about a girl before.
Somewhat surprised by herself and figuring out what this crush means, Ophelia ponders the repercussions of contradicting what everyone already knows her to be. She feels constricted within the pre-established walls of her identity that are reinforced by the perceptions of her loved ones. What if “boy-crazy Ophelia” isn’t just “crazy” for boys? During a period in their lives when so much change is imminent, she fears that changing a fundamental part of her identity—-such as her sexuality—-will cause too much of a divide between her and those who have always been by her side.
This contemporary young adult novel explores the protagonist’s identity and relationships as her senior year of high school draws to an end. Ophelia is passionate, emotional, and motivated, but she is also at times irrational, moody, and distant. The author genuinely yet lovingly portrays the experience of adolescence with honesty and compassion. While Ophelia acts out, snaps at her friends, and keeps many feelings private, we understand that this is all a part of her journey of self-actualization and still root for her all along the way, especially when she blunders.
Not only is Ophelia a lovable main character, but her friends are well fleshed-out supporting characters. Despite having a friend group of seven people, each character has their own distinct personality that feels true to them. More than just stock figures, Ophelia’s friends feel vibrant and real. Though there is much high school drama that occurs in this novel—-and I don’t say that with condescension; it is high school, after all—-the characters make mistakes and own up to them, assuming accountability for their shortcomings and exhibiting maturity as they grow. Moreover, there are asexual and aromantic characters in this book as well, representation I love to come across.
This novel truly impressed me. The writing feels effortless and empowers the narrative, and the pacing is excellent. As far as young adult novels go, this one is a must-read!
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