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.
I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
If young adult contemporary isn’t your stomping ground, I am begging for you to make an exception and make Ophelia After All one of your to-read books of 2022. A joy from start to finish, this exceptional coming-of-age story follows biracial Cuban-Irish teen Ophelia who must navigate identity, change and friendship at the sunset of high school.
All her life, Ophelia has always ‘fallen in love just a little bit every day with someone new’. To all her family and friends, Ophelia has always been ‘boy crazy Ophelia’, but when Ophelia realises that she has a crush on one of the girls at school, this calls everything she knows about herself into question and will shatter the perceptions and expectations of those around her. Because how do you tell the people that know, love, and see you every day that, somehow, sometime, someplace, you are no longer the person that they have always known you to be? How do you tell them that, along the way, you changed?
Ophelia After All takes readers along on a heartfelt journey on what it means to change when everything else around you is changing. Racquel brilliantly and bravely explores that space of ‘in-between’, that fraught and blurry space where you aren’t quite sure of who you are; when the person you used to be no longer fits but the person you may be feels unfamiliar and undiscovered. For Ophelia, supposedly ‘boy crazy Ophelia’, what does it mean to question your sexuality, to explore that, contrary to popular belief, you aren’t ‘boy crazy Ophelia’ anymore? And more, what does it mean when you don’t quite know how to share these quiet revelations with the people who know and love you?
Change is inevitable and the story leans into the tumult and messiness that changing and growing brings. What I loved, though, is that Ophelia After All says with so much gentleness and love: it’s okay to change, it’s okay to be unsure about who you are, it’s okay to figure out who you are, because that person is so worth discovering and is so worthy of love.
Amidst Ophelia’s journey of identity, Ophelia After All also offers a down-to-earth story about friendship and high school drama that, I promise, never feels puerile or overdone. Rather, the friendship troubles that Ophelia navigates feel incredibly real and organic. From friend groups merging, the drama and suspense of a love triangle converging towards an inevitable rejection, to the reality that everyone will part ways once the year is over, Ophelia After All not only boasts a cast of memorable and developed characters, but also left me with that rare feeling of that, by the end, I felt like Ophelia’s friends were my friends too.
Holding together this gorgeous story of identity and friendship is also its palpable love to all the queer kids who are still figuring themselves out – who are questioning, exploring uncharted waters, or simply adrift, simply being, in an ocean of possibility. Ophelia After All is a story that helps hold your feelings, however simple or complex, and shows that love – whether it be platonic love, family love, and love for who we are and could be – is what gives us the courage to brave whatever may come our way.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A teen realises that she may actually be queer, a revelation that will forever change the perceptions of herself and those closest to her.
Perfect for: Readers who love coming-of-age contemporaries; readers who love complex, messy, yet endearing characters; readers who love stories about friendship and love; readers looking for a queer read.
Think twice if: You aren’t interested in a prom setting and/or themes around leaving high school.
Genre: young adult contemporary, coming-of-age