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Books Reviews

A Love Letter to Queer & Questioning Teens & A Deep Look at Finding Your Own Identity: Review of Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie

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Happy (belated) book birthday to Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie!

I was lucky enough to get an e-ARC of this amazing book and I have to say, it was probably my favorite book of 2021. I really hope that you’ll read my review and if you haven’t already been interested in picking this book up, that you’ll consider it now!

Ophelia After All
Image: Cover of Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie

Sidenote: I think this cover is so pretty! The colors are perfect and I love the subtle details, like Ophelia’s freckles. I will absolutely be getting a physical copy of this as soon as I’m able because I want this book on my shelves.

Summary

Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes: her best friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys – way too many boys. Her friends and parents make fun of her endless stream of crushes, but Ophelia is a romantic at heart. She couldn’t change, even if she wanted to.

So when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s firm image of herself. Add to that the impending end of high school and the fracturing of her once-solid friend group, and things are spiraling a little out of control. But the course of love–and sexuality–never did run smooth. As her secrets begin to unravel, Ophelia must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself she’s always imagined or upending everyone’s expectations to rediscover who she really is, after all.

Review

If I could go back in time and give my teenage self one book, it would be this one. Ophelia After All is a stunning debut from Racquel Marie that I would recommend to queer and questioning kids everywhere. This is a book about growing up and learning how to accept yourself with grace and heart.

Following Ophelia in the lead up to prom and the end of her senior school year, she begins to wrestle with the feelings that she’s having for another girl. She has a fantastic group of friends and a close family but as she feels more and more inner turmoil she begins to find the relationships around her on the rocks. She struggles but she grows and in doing so this book reveals a really beautiful message of hope in confusing times. I truly loved every second of this book.

I found myself relating so much to Ophelia as she finds herself stuck feeling like she has to stay in this role she has always been in. She’s “boy crazy” Ophelia and along with the other attributes that her friends and family have assigned to her over the years, when she realizes that things might be changing she doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to let anyone down which is something that I think many people will be able to relate to. All of a sudden, Ophelia feels like she isn’t enough in every aspect. From her typical crush behavior, to even how she interacts with cultural aspects of her family. She feels like she’s floating at the edge of it all and for a high schooler who is about to hit adulthood and college, it quickly overwhelmed her. This is such a realistic story that weaves together friendship, family, and teenage emotions and it will hit close to home for many. Identity is confusing enough as it is, throw in feeling like you aren’t going to live up to the expectations that other people might have for you and it’s all too easy to feel like everything is going to fall apart around you.

The plot of Ophelia After All was unexpected and yet the messages that were laced throughout give a lasting impression. It’s hopeful and inspiring and I think that it will be a starting point for any number of young adults who find themselves lost. This is organic and full of the most satisfying friendships I’ve read in a long while. The connections between every character were so strong and I felt like I knew them all to their depths. As every aspect shifted and Ophelia slowly started to find her footing again, I was overwhelmed with how much I loved every single one of the characters in this book. They felt so real and I loved seeing how they all interacted with each other and how friendships and relationships fell apart and developed throughout the course of the story. I really appreciated that this plot took a different turn than I was expecting it to and I think that Racquel made all the right decisions with Ophelia. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop gushing about this book!

Now, I remember being in high school and maybe even younger and realizing that things felt different sometimes. Thinking back on that time of my life, I often wish that I would have been kinder to myself, but that’s something that I’m still working on as an adult. I’ve always said I was thankful for Tumblr because even though it is a hellsite for so many reasons, it helped me learn a lot about myself. It’s where I found out about asexuality and got to see many people post openly about their own identities. That being said, I would have appreciated to have a book like this in my life back then. Ophelia After All is raw and honest and it depicts a realistic story about wrestling with self-doubt and self-acceptance. I hope that young adults and adults alike will be able to pick this book up and find a message that supports and encourages them. I really can’t recommend it enough.

This was an easy five stars from me!

For every queer or questioning kid, this is a love letter to you and I hope that you find some solace in these pages in the same way that I did.

To add the book to your Goodreads, I’ve linked it here.

And if you’d like to pick up a copy of your own, you can find it at the following links:

Bookshop // Barnes & Noble // Libro.fm // Book Depository // Kobo

Other Places You Can Find Me

My Goodreads is linked here.

Twitter: @nihilisticactus

Readerly: @sideofadventure

For review requests/inquiries: adventuresandespresso@gmail.com

If you’d like to buy me a coffee, my Ko-fi is linked here.

Categories
Books Reviews

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

“Broken people don’t hide from their monsters. Broken people let themselves be eaten.”

When I say that this is the book that I have been waiting my whole life to read, I don’t say that lightly. Like there are some books that you read and you enjoy and you move on from and then there are books that open your mouth and crawl down your throat and into your soul… This book crawled into my soul and stuck its tendrils in every nook and cranny and I’m not sure if I could expel it if I tried.

I am…. Very emotional right now. Genuinely cannot stop thinking about this book. Wow. Wow. Wow.

So I read Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia this week. I had heard of this book a few times before now, but I never actually knew what it was about. I knew that it had been compared to both Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman; both of which are books that I related to immensely. It was on the shelf at my library when I was there last weekend so I decided to finally check it out.

Here’s the blurb for the book on Goodreads:

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

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I started off with this book not really having any high expectations of the story. Of any sort of these fandom-centered books, Fangirl was still the one that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. But after reading this, well, that’s all changed.

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I rated this 5/5 stars and I will make my claim here that I genuinely do not think that any book that I read for the rest of the year will top this one. This is- and I cannot stress this enough- my new favorite book.

So I’m going to do this review in two parts. An objective part, which I’ll do real quick first, and then my own personal review in the secondary part.

Eliza and Her Monsters hits on so many aspects of living life as someone who is very online. There are great storylines, good character development, an adorable first romance, intense backstory, this was a familiar story and yet so unique… The mental health representation is spot on and the fact that the author portrayed therapy visits and actually put a character on medication. *Chef’s kiss* For anyone that has grown up in a fandom, grown up loving books or comics or been part of an online community, I highly recommend. It weaves together both the good and bad parts of being online and really highlights the inner strength that it takes to be able to get up and move forward when you really, really don’t want to be around anymore.

This is also a great book that talks about passions and the choices that young people have to make in deciding whether to go on to further education, what to do for work, how to decide what we really want to do for our future. I think it is so important to see books where young people don’t follow the “traditional” path of going to college right out of high school. Not everyone needs to follow that path and it’s important to know that we have options.

On a personal note, this book struck a chord with me that no book ever has before. There were so many parallels within this story that coincided with events in my own life that on more than one occasion I had to set the book down and take a lap around the store that I work at because I was getting overly emotional. (Like I genuinely felt like I was reading my own story and it was the creepiest and most emotional thing I’ve ever felt).

I have never related to two characters more, never seen myself in a book the way that I saw myself in Eliza and Wallace. It tore me in two and then slowly glued me back together. I can’t even say that this is a book that I needed back in high school because genuinely, this is the book that I needed right now. I want to tell everyone to read this book but at the same time I want to keep it to myself because this story felt so personal.

Oh gosh, I’m getting emotional again. *deep breaths* Okay!

So there is a trigger warning for suicide in this book, and while I’m glad I didn’t know about that going into my initial reading, I also know that I probably would have saved myself from a less extreme panic attack when reading the scenes in which this trigger is relevant.

Again, 5/5 stars. Already bought my own copy of this and will probably be rereading before the end of the year.

If you want to pick up your own copy (which I highly urge you to do) here are some links for you:

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository