The only way I can describe this book is: I absolutely hated everything about it AND loved it. Charlotte Gingras brings out emotions of love, hate, disgust and so much more in this translation (by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou) of her book, Ophelia.
Sometimes I was rooting for Ophelia and other times I just wanted to smack her. Hard. I felt for her and the difficulties she was going through. I felt she was the most selfish creature on the face of the planet. I know of nobody I can recommend this to and think everyone should read Ophelia. Due to several factors, your mileage will vary: What is your emotional state at the time of reading? What are your personal experiences? Biases? Are you an artist/writer? Do you know girls like Ophelia? Or guys like Ulysses? (More on him later.) Are you Ophelia/Ulysses?
To try and explain Ophelia is the to give away the whole story. But in a nutshell, she is an artist. At first “just” a tagger of walls with her chalk-made broken hearts (I do wonder if that is a translation “thing” or she really uses chalk, as later she does use paint. And chalk would wash off walls easily). Eventually, she finds an abandoned building where she will create three pieces of work that symbolize herself and journey. At school, her art project is a cliched, typical high school piece of work (and is praised by her art teacher, and later, students alike, for how it is a “true piece of art” and not the “fluffy scrapbooks” the other girls made). Her other form of expression is writing. At first, it is a journal/diary that she uses to write to an author that came to her school. Later it grows into something else. Ophelia is a typical teen who is learning, growing, trying to hide and trying to find herself.
I mentioned Ulysses earlier. As the jacket description says, Ophelia will find that someone else has found her work-space before her. This is Ulysses, a boy from school that together they learn to explore themselves, each other (literally and figuratively) and how to grow out of their selfish-worlds. Images of Hamlet (Ophelia) and Ulysses stories mirror the journey of our “now” hero/heroine. This makes the story (again) cliched and yet, is the perfect metaphor to show the struggles people can experience.
The art work only adds to the emotional tugging due to the graffiti like work, the realism and absolute surreal-abstractness all rolled into one. Daniel Sylvestre compliments the sometimes sensual and sometimes crude text with equally sensual and crude art.
If I have one complaint, the spattering of French can be distracting if you are not a speaker/reader of the language.