A teen girl navigates friendship drama, the end of high school, and discovering her queerness in Ophelia After All, a hilarious and heartfelt contemporary YA debut by author Racquel Marie.
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.
Content Warnings: mentions of underage drinking and vaping, topical mentions of sex, cut-off use of a homophobic slur (challenged), condemned homophobia, discussion of anti-Blackness within a mixed race Latine family (challenged)
I can’t remember when I first heard about Ophelia After All, but I have been waiting for this one for quite a long time. I’m pretty sure it was the first book on my 2022 Most Anticipated shelf on Goodreads. Actually, I believe that it was the reason that I created a 2022 Most Anticipated shelf in the first place. The day I finally got to start reading it was actually a terrible day for me. I can’t remember what exactly had gone wrong, but I remember feeling overwhelmed, overtired, and just generally not good. I decided to read just a couple of chapters before bed (yes I know, a classic mistake) and ended up being absolutely swept away. I finished the book all in one go and then promptly burst into tears. Now, I wouldn’t say at all that Ophelia After All was a sad book, but it was incredibly cathartic.
In short, I was absolutely blown away by Ophelia After All. Not only was it one of the best debuts I have ever read, but I am also already confident that it will be one of the best books I will read all year.
“But I don’t think the truest love is deemed so because it’s the most painful. Waiting for someone to love you back seems beautiful in a miserable way when you’re young. No offense.” She smiles. “But a life spent waiting is not a life spent loving. It’s a life spent wasting away on the promise of something you’re not guaranteed.”
Ophelia After All is such a wonderful, authentic, and heartfelt depiction of high school. I do not consider myself a particularly nostalgic person, nor would high school be a time that I would be terribly nostalgic for ordinarily. However, there’s just something about the way that Racquel Marie writes about Ophelia and her friends navigating the final months: getting ready for prom, graduation, and the world beyond high school, that made me turn a fond eye back on my own final month of high school.
One of the biggest highlights of Ophelia After All, for me, is Ophelia’s friend group, I simply love all of them so much. Every single character has such a distinct voice and personality, even the ones we don’t get as much time with still feel so real. They all have realistic flaws, anxieties and quirks, and because of that, they feel like real teens. I love all of the little insights into who they are, there is absolutely more than meets the eye to every single person in the group.
Ophelia’s story is truly special because it highlights a queer storyline that gets a lot less attention: that not everyone instantly connects with an identity. One of the things that I really love, and I feel like I connected a lot with, is Ophelia’s anger and fear and frustration. Coming out is such a difficult thing to navigate at such a young age, especially when all of the people you rely on to help you with the “big things” are the same people you’re afraid to tell.
“And maybe they’d say ‘Oh, this doesn’t change anything!’ or ‘You’re still the same Ophelia we know and love!’ but it does and I’m not the same. And they can’t possibly understand that. It’s not just that I’m scared they’ll hate me for this; I’m scared they won’t even see it.”
I think it was a Tik Tok meme a while back (I know I need to spend less time on the internet) that said “your inner child includes your inner teen as well” and this was a book that felt absolutely meant for my “inner teen”. Raquel Marie speaks directly to the soul of every queer kid who has ever struggled with coming out.
Lastly, I just wanted to say, that queer youth spaces are so so important and I’m always so happy to see authors choose to highlight those spaces. I highly encourage you to look up your local organizations/chapters of organizations to see what support they can offer you, what support you can offer them, and, if you can, please donate to help allow them to continue providing the care and safety they offer young queer folks.
Racquel Marie grew up in Southern California where her passion for storytelling of all kinds was encouraged by her friends and big family. She received a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Irvine. Racquel primarily writes YA contemporaries starring queer Latine characters like herself. When not writing or reading, she loves practicing beauty and special effects makeup, watching and producing YouTube videos, and teaching herself to play ukulele in spite of her extremely long nails. She is the author of Ophelia After All and You Don’t Have a Shot.