CM . . . . Volume XX Number 3 . . . . September 20, 2013
Raphaelle, as she portrays herself in the above excerpt, feels she cannot do anything right. When she and her family move to the Prairies, she decides to re-invent herself as Ella in order to fit in with her new surroundings and give herself a brand new chance at life. Part of this new life comes to include Samir, a Muslim in her art class, who brings her joy and love, yet confusion as well. When Ella expresses some of these emotions in explicit artwork, the art ends up being texted by a classmate to a younger friend. This act lands Ella in a great deal of trouble and threatens not only her friendships but her rather fragile family as well. It is one thing, Ella finds, to be audacious, but it is something entirely different to be accepted. Why must you give up one in order to become the other?
Gabrielle Prendergast has written a stunning young adult novel which shows the coming-of-age process of a strong and independent young woman who wants to express herself through her art. The theme of censorship is predominant in the novel as Prendergast asks if it is ever fitting to censor art and, if so, who should determine what can and cannot be seen. Ella, who is just 16, grapples with and attempts to resolve some of her emotional issues with her art. Prendergast shows readers other ways of coping which are no more successful: Ella's mother suffers from an eating disorder, her sister has breathing difficulties, and her father prefers to just absent himself from problems unless he is forced to confront them.
Audacious is written entirely in verse, but readers will hardly notice this fact after the first few pages. Somehow, the author manages to create fully formed characters, interesting dialogue and a series of events which tell a complete story while using a minimum of words. Prendergast says enough that readers have a clear sense of plot, setting and characters, and yet readers are able to fill in any blanks with their own imagination – a perfect combination!
Audacious is a strong, occasionally disturbing young adult novel which mirrors accurately the main character who, in her effort to learn more about herself, lives up to the book's title. The forthcoming sequel, Capricious, promises to unfold more of Ella's story, and I am eager to see what happens next to this feisty heroine!
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.