The kids at school call her rag girl because she hides under layers of oversized clothing, but she calls herself Ophelia. She hardly speaks to anyone — until one day a visiting author comes to give a talk in the school library. The writer speaks about what it means to create art, and at the end of her talk, she thanks Ophelia for asking the first question by giving her a blue notebook with her address on it.
Ophelia starts to write to the author in the notebook — letters that become a kind of lifeline. The idea that someone, somewhere, might care, is enough for her to keep writing, an escape from her real life. By day she goes to school and works at the dollar store before returning home to her mother, a former addict who once had to put her daughter in care. At night she creates graffiti around town, leaving little broken hearts as her tag.
One night she finds an abandoned building that she decides to use as her workshop, where she can make larger-than-life art. When she finds that a classmate, an overweight boy named Ulysses, is also using the space to repair an old van, the two form an uneasy truce, with a chalk line drawn down the middle to mark their separate territories. As time passes, Ophelia and Ulysses forge a fraught but growing friendship, but their cocooned existence cannot last forever. One night, intruders invade their sanctuary, and their shared bond and individual strength are sorely tested.
Out March 1, 2018
I was sent this book in exchange for my honest review.
What interested me in this story was the premise. The theme based around a misfit girl who gets bullied, but then develops a friendship with another misfit and together they overcome major issues, is not only common place in the world today, but would appeal to middle graders around the world. So I was drawn to see how well the author took on such a project.
The potential was excellent. The illustrations accompanied the story in a supportive and creative manner and proved useful in pushing the story along and strengthening the plot.
The characters were well drawn out; they developed and grew steadily with each hurtle in their relationship they overcame.
What killed the story for me, and this is strictly personal, is that it was written in first-person. I know authors like to use first-person for this readership because it gives the reader a sense of participation or relatability to the characters and what they’re experiencing… it just didn’t do it for me. Instead, I felt the story at times took on a more robotic feel, unemotional and distant, especially when referring to what others’s actions were. This gave the story a disjointed feel that jerked and flailed, and halted the story for me at points where I was just getting into what was going on. This distracted me from the story because I needed to re-read a bunch of paragraphs to grasp the “feel” of what the author was trying to do. That said, the book is still entertaining, and perhaps, a younger reader won’t mind these issues, however, it didn’t work well for me.
With this exception, I still found myself interested in the outcome, seeing the development of the characters and watching the protagonist reach her goals.
I gave this book: