I am about to make this book everybody’s problem, and by problem, I actually mean the solution to all your problems.
I know I’m exaggerating, but I just really, really love this book.
“Ophelia After All” is everything you could possibly want in a queer coming out story. It’s a love letter to queer teens and to love itself in all its forms. It has so much heart and wonder.
Ophelia Rojas thinks she knows exactly who she is. She loves gardening, her friends and her family. She’s a hopeless romantic who’s had way too many crushes on way too many boys. She’s just months away from graduating high school, and she’s happy with her college plans. Everything seems perfect. But lately, she’s had a particular girl on her mind. And that could change everything.
Soon, Ophelia finds herself in a veritable mess, an identity crisis to end all identity crises. She doesn’t know how to talk about this, or even who to talk about it with. She makes mistakes. She learns. She grows.
Coming out is not easy, and it’s even less easy when you’re not quite sure what label even fits you the best. It’s exhausting, and it’s convoluted, and you’ll totally screw it up sometimes. However, as author Racquel Marie makes it clear, it can also be incredibly freeing.
Ophelia spends a lot of time trying to figure herself out. Her high school friend group is fracturing from petty drama, and she’s at the center of a lot of it. But ultimately, these kids love each other.
I have no words for the amount of joy this book gave me, how much I felt seen and how deeply Ophelia’s story resonated with me. We come from very different backgrounds — I’m Chinese, she’s Cuban and Irish — but I felt Ophelia’s struggles with being part of a diaspora, with not quite knowing herself and, even with her complicated, messy relationships with her friends and family.
There are many things I loved about this book. The way that not every character knows how to label themselves, and that’s okay. The way that characters who are bi or pan are shown to be attracted to, and to date, people of all genders, including ones that are not their own. The way that not one, but two characters were on the asexual or aromantic spectrum.
I know you can’t see it, but there are tears clouding my vision as I type this because younger me needed this book so much. To know it’s okay not to slap a label on yourself as soon as you find one that might possibly sound right, but also to know that if you feel a certain way — or don’tto not feel something at all — you’re allowed to do so, and that doesn’t make you less. Of anything.
At the end of the day, if you’re not cis and straight and allo, you are a part of the LGBTQIAP+ community, no matter if you’re sure of a label or not, no matter what letter of the queer acronym that label is, no matter who you decide to (or not to) date. Racquel Marie makes that abundantly clear in this stunning debut novel, and I commend her for it.
I only have about a month left of being a queer teen (I will soon be in my twenties), but I know this story is going to be so incredibly important to queer teens out there. It certainly would have saved me a lot of trouble. Please, please, please read this book. It’s really something.
Also, this book serves as a reminder to treasure your friendships. We all need to hear more of that.
“Ophelia After All” is set to release on Feb. 8, 2022. I received an early copy from the publisher, Feiwel and Friends, in exchange for an honest review, and I think this is the most honest I’ve been in a review thus far.