Friday, February 12, 2016

Arc Review: Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher. 343 p. Little, Brown and Company, May 15, 2016. 9780316370752. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher).

I fell in love with Tess' voice from the memorable first line, "There must be a list on the Internet of what to buy when you're running away, but my phone is typically dead, like I swear it just passes out whenever things get stressful." 

Self-aware and insecure, snarky and keenly observant, Tess plans on running away after accidentally learning that she is not her father's biological daughter. She gets as far as a convenience store where she ponders said list, purchases a goldfish-shaped flashlight, chickens out about running away and returns home with her tail between her legs. 

She has always been a pliable, eager-to-please daughter to her opinionated, over-involved father and supportive mother.  So what if she doesn't really want to play a lost boy to his Capt. Hook in a local theater production? After all, he's always had her welfare at heart. But after reading those 617 words on her father's computer, words he intended for a blog post for the Donor Conception Network, she wonders if her whole life has been a lie. 

Her life at school is not much better. She has one friend, the cello-playing, Lord of the Rings-loving, fan-fic writing, word-nerd Isabel. She has never brought her home because a friendship with Isabel would be be a disappointment. Instead, she has created an imaginary friendship with Anna, the resident Queen Bee mean girl. 

When Tess realizes that it is easier to become mute than to attempt to explain her confusion and rage or ask difficult questions, she brings some unwanted attention to herself at school. While the silence does have some benefits, it brings with it some unintended consequences. As Tess' life spirals out of control, the goldfish flashlight that she names Mr. Goldfish, becomes, not only a talisman, but the only one Tess can speak to as she plunges headlong into a search for her "real" father.

This coming-of-age novel is deeply moving. Not only does it have its laugh-out-loud moments, thanks to Tess' wry observations, but readers will wince for Tess during her many cringeworthy experiences. Even though her character is what drives the book, the adults around her are complex and flawed. It is gratifying to watch Tess sort these folks out. While the pace might be a tad slow for some, the interior dialogue is rich, the writing is lovely and Tess! Oh, Tess is so intriguing - endearing yet maddening. Thoughtful teen readers will find much to enjoy.

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