by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault
Plot Summary:Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Her school life is full of whispers and lies — Hélène weighs 216; she smells like BO. Her loving mother is too tired to be any help. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Hélène identifies strongly with Jane’s tribulations, and when she is lost in the pages of this wonderful book, she is able to ignore her tormentors. But when Hélène is humiliated on a class trip in front of her entire grade, she needs more than a fictional character to allow her to see herself as a person deserving of laughter and friendship.
This emotionally honest and visually stunning graphic novel reveals the casual brutality of which children are capable, but also assures readers that redemption can be found through connecting with another, whether the other is a friend, a fictional character or even, amazingly, a fox.
Review:This is a wonderfully intelligent graphic novel about a bullied young girl who finds solace in Jane's journey in Jane Eyre. Although it is available in English, I really wanted to brush up my French (which is sadly lacking) so I read this in the original Canadian French (with my handy dictionary). If the nuances in the story got past me, then it is entirely my fault. Although it was lovely to read the French text with the expressive artwork to help me understand Hélène's story.
The artwork is definitely a highlight in this story. Hélène's personal experiences are in gray, simple pencil drawings, while scenes from Jane's life are in color which gives extra meaning when Hélène's life takes on a little color by the end. Hélène is a very sympathetic character - a bookish introvert with self-worth issues and the teasing and mean comments from kids who used to be her friends are terrible. The images give a lot of depth to the characters and Hélène's situation with the wonderful addition of comparing her life to Jane Eyre. The commentary on Jane Eyre was perfect - I loved the comparisons made, and I completely agreed with the elements of the novel that made Jane's story so compelling. It all works perfectly to advance the story and to make Hélène even more relatable.
This is a very sweet and engaging read, with lovely artwork and characterizations. I think this is a book I will love to reread again and again to understand the story even better and to appreciate the message in Hélène's journey.
6th book of 20 in the Books of Eyre Reading Challenge
Amazon (English) / (French)