Written by: Fanny Britt
Illustrated by: Isabelle Arsenault
Translated by: Christine Morelli and Susan Ouriou
Published by: Groundwood Books
Published on: September 1, 2013
Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.
When you open an Isabelle Arsenault-illustrated book, you expect a few things.
-Hand-lettered text that adds to the illustrations
-Use of colour and grayscale to evoke emotion
I was a bit worried that we wouldn't get this in Arsenault's first graphic novel. I should have had more faith. We have all of her signature style, just 3 times more of it!
The titular Jane is from Jane Eyre. Hélène takes her as a heroine. If you are exicted to step into Jane Eyre's world as an escape from your own lonely existence, you know things are bad. They are. Hélène has no friends, is mocked by former friends and classmates, and has really low self-esteem. These issues are too common in teenagehood, I'm afraid. I certainly see myself at times in Hélène.
Hélène is prone to exaggeration, but even I can understand her feelings of frustration during a swimsuit-shopping trip.
Jane Eyre may be an orphan, homely, battered, alone and abandoned,
but she is not, never has been, and never will be
A Big Fat Sausage.
Things aren't all bad. She has a companionable relationship with her hard-working mother, even if it isn't a Gilmore Girls-type of relationship where Hélène and her mother pour their hearts out to each other. Her mother does what she can to quietly cheer her up. But a homemade beautiful crinoline dress can't help Hélène hold her head up high with all that is going on.
Hélène also has books. Jane Eyre provides her with a much-needed escape, even from a dreaded class field trip.
On the bus, my strategy is to read the whole where there like that's all that matters.
I know I've retreated to that world more than once.
Fanny Britt has created an endearing character in Hélène, one with universal worries whom you can't help but root for. I hope that this is not the last graphic novel Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault produce.