This book is: sweet, wonderful YA perfection.
Other elements: friendship, self-acceptance, fish, failure, body image, swimming.
Read it: if you want a good, quirky, entertaining story with undertones of heart-warmingness.
Overall rating: 7.5/10
Lou is a 15 year old girl who knows exactly what her life is about: swimming, her swimmer best friend, and her swimming goals. At least, that’s true until she fails to qualify at the time trials for the Olympics’ training camp and her life is turned upside-down. Who is she, if she’s not a competitive swimmer? It’s not a question Lou ever thought she’d have to answer.
The online presence for Goldfish brands it heavily as a humor book. I was amused by many parts of it, but it was more of a smile and a mental “ha!” kind of amusement than giggling out loud. I was actually surprised how heavily the website and promotional material I found tried to emphasize the comedy of Goldfish.
I actually thought that the weakest part of this book is the number of pratfalls that the main character takes. She’s always falling over. True, she’s a 15 year old athlete who has just stopped practicing her sport, so it’s believable that she’d be uncomfortable in her body, but the girl cannot stop falling over. I think if Luurtsema had focused more on letting Goldfish be the great story that it is and less on trying to insert laugh-out-loud moments, those weaker instances of forced-feeling physical comedy could have been avoided and the novel would have been stronger for it.
That said: I really enjoyed reading this book. It tells an engaging story with very human characters and touches on some important issues that any teenager (or grown-up teenager) can identify with. Failure, self-identity, friendship, loneliness, changing body image, and swim/dancing in tanks full of tiny, brightly-colored fish. It’s a quick read and worth your time.
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My thanks to Feiwel & Friends for providing me with a copy of Goldfish for review consideration.