Jane, the Fox & Me

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Jane, the Fox & Me

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. Leaving the outcasts’ tent one night, Hélène encounters a fox, a beautiful creature with whom she shares a moment of connection. But when Suzanne Lipsky frightens the fox away, insisting that it must be rabid, Hélène’s despair becomes even more pronounced: now she believes that only a diseased and dangerous creature would ever voluntarily approach her. But then a new girl joins the outcasts’ circle, Géraldine, who does not even appear to notice that she is in danger of becoming an outcast herself. And before long Hélène realizes that the less time she spends worrying about what the other girls say is wrong with her, the more able she is to believe that there is nothing wrong at all. 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.

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An honest, yet lovely, look at bullying.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
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5.0
This was not at all what I expected.

I discovered a story about self-esteem, and bullying, and cruelty. About identity, and family, and self-perception. About the crucial role books can play in the lives of young people. And I was glad to make these discoveries, even though it did hurt quite a bit.

Hélène is a young girl living in Montreal with her mother and 2 younger brothers. Hélène has no friends. She is harassed and harangued by many other girls at school, and frankly it makes her feel like shit. Hélène tries to feel less bad about herself by reading. She reads JANE EYRE and tells the story to the reader in colorful pages with flowing script and clever narration. Hélène obviously feels that of the two of them, Jane is the better person. Hélène is quite wrong about this.

Hélène must put up with all sorts of cruelty from her peers. This part of the story is told in shades of gray, and occasionally beige. Jane Eyre's part of the story is told in somber, yet intriguing, shades of ocher, and brown, black and orange, and sometimes robin's-egg blue. The dark tones of Hélène's story reflect her emotions quite clearly. She is a very depressed little girl.

By the end of the story Hélène manages to make a friend. This helps her realize that her self-perceptions are in fact quite ridiculous, and that she shouldn't let those cruel classmates get her down. The illustrations start gaining color: first orange, then pink, then green, and blue. The watercolor illustrations are absolutely breathtaking, particularly the final two-page spread with the fox.

JANE, THE FOX, AND ME is a heart-breaking tale of a sad, tired girl with no friends, who finds solace in Emily Bronte's classic, and in a simple friendship.
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