Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Me on Audacious
Author: Gabrielle Prendergast
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Orca Books
Sixteen year old Raphaelle is that girl who says the wrong thing, who crosses the wrong person, who has the wrong hair, the wrong body, the wrong attitude, the totally wrong clothes. She can’t do anything right, except draw, but she draws the wrong pictures. When her father moves the family to a small prairie city, Raphaelle wants to leave behind the misfit rebel, the outcast, the vengeful trouble-maker she was. Reborn as “Ella,” she plans to fit in at her new school, while her perfect younger sister goes to the Catholic girls’ school and her emotionally fragile mother looks for a job. But Ella might just be a different kind of misfit. She’s drawn to a brooding boy in her art class, Samir, and expresses her confused feelings in an explicit artwork. When a classmate texts a photo of Ella’s art to a younger friend, the horrendous fallout spreads though Ella’s life like an uncontrollable disease. Ella is expelled from school and faces pornography charges, her mother is hospitalized, her sister fails all her classes, and her distant father finally notices something is wrong.
Audacious is a smart, powerful story about a teenage girl trying to navigate right and wrong. Hers is a smart, clear voice, lyrical and rhythmic, telling her story about being new and reinventing herself while being unable to escape her past. What's right and what's wrong will collide, leaving something unexpected behind.
Raphaelle, or Ella, has a very compelling voice. She's smart, sharp, witty, and bold. She's strong for the most part, there are those things that rattle her, that make her feel afraid. After this move, she's trying not be wrong anymore, not to say the wrong thing or wear the wrong clothes. She's not trying to stand out. Being herself got her labelled as wrong, as an outcast, and so not she's trying to figure out what's right. But what if being wrong is right for her?
Conflict comes at Ella from different sides, at home and at school. Her mother is ill and is incapable of moving on from a tragedy, her sister's failing grades are at times hidden by her asthma, and her father has become a workaholic that hides from his wife and children. At school, there is a boy that draws Ella's attention, a boy with dark eyes who makes her care about him, feel things for him. Ella doesn't flounder, caught up in too strong a current, but she doesn't know what to do. So she falls back on art, on what she knows, on how she knows to express herself. And then everything goes wrong.
So much of this book has to do with how we see ourselves and how we see others, how we define 'right' and 'wrong' in terms of acting, dressing, living, and creating. Being different is so often pushed towards the bring wrong side of things, that those acts and interests need to be changed in order to be 'right' or 'normal.' Being made to conform to the will of others, being told you can't speak on what you're passionate about or speak out against what you feel to be an injustice, like censorship or racism or sexism, is wrong. That might be the only thing I would say is wrong. Ella tries to do things differently, tries to do them the 'right' way. But when she's told she's still doing it wrong, what is she supposed to do then?
Verse novels have a certain something to them not often found in prose. They're often more emotional, their writers and speakers are more honest with the reader. What is there to hide? There's nothing to hide behind in verse novels. The reader comes face to face with the speaker's life, with their reactions and emotions, with their struggles and hopes.
What does it mean to be audacious? What does it mean to speak out, to be who you are, to not pretend or conform into an awkward pretzel? Finding her place, figuring out who she is, that's important to Ella. But then comes the end of the book, the end that makes me excited for the continuation of Ella's journey.
(I received an e-galley of this title from the author.)