The three words that instantly popped into my head a mere couple of pages into Dear Opl were heartbreaking, poignant, and important. Shelley Sackier has created a likable and relatable character in Opal and used her to tackle an important and pervasive issue. Our relationship with our bodies in an era where processed, fatty, salty, and sugary foods reign supreme in the grocery aisles.
When Opal’s Dad passed away a few years ago, everything went helter-skelter. Her coping mechanisms weren’t the healthiest. Between her shrinking personality and increased appetite, Opal became invisible to almost everyone, even her mother, to whom she feels she has become nothing but her fat daughter “Oval”.
Then something happens. Opal starts a blog, which quickly become “the voice of all eight-graders”. This is where she vents her frustrations at life, school, and celebrity chef Alfie Adam, the “Nude Food Dude”. Its where other eighth graders find some relief in knowing that they, too, are not alone in thinking such thoughts.
And suddenly, Opal goes from ignored to being avidly listened to.
The heaviness of the topic is offset by memorable characters, an engaging, steadily advancing plot, and just enough deep thoughts to inspire without suffocating, giving Dear Opl an overall feeling of lightness in this book. For example, one of the ways that Opal finds her way back to her true nature is through yoga. Although this ancient practice is presented in the book, it is only done so gently, as a seamless part of the plot, rather than it being explained over pages and pages which would gravely disturb the flow of the story.
Dear Opl is a charming read; Opal herself even more so. Her Grandfather is a quirky fellow while her little brother Ollie is adorable in his earnestness. As for our main character, her intelligence, wit, and occasional grumpiness will make you root for her and hers well after the cover has been shut on their story.