Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book in Review: Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Cover & Publisher

 Published by: Candlewick Press

Why I Read This

I was in the mood to read a novel in verse and this one popped out at me.


A teenager struggles through physical loss to the start of acceptance in an absorbing, artful novel at once honest and insightful, wrenching and redemptive.

On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything — absolutely everything — changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, "That’s her — that’s Shark Girl," as she passes. In the meantime there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? In this striking first novel, Kelly Bingham uses poems, letters, telephone conversations, and newspaper clippings to look unflinchingly at what it’s like to lose part of yourself - and to summon the courage it takes to find yourself again.



 I like the idea behind this book. It was definitely what peaked my interest. There really aren't that many attacked by a shark stories out there and whatever is mentioned on the news tends to get brushed aside for the other daily "big news" really quickly. So when I saw this book I thought it sounded very unique and saw lots of potential for different story paths.

Unfortunately I just didn't feel like it took the idea far enough for me. Sure we meet Jane and we get to see how she struggles with the loss of her good arm (she's right handed) and how that changes all the life dreams she had for herself. We even get a good glimpse into how her family is coping with this huge change in her life and how it affects them. But the shark attack itself never feels resolved. All this is done well and a good story for coping with loss if that's what you want to read about. However, we don't get a sense of how she feels about ever going back into the water. And we never get to hear Jane's side of the story about the shark attack itself, only the moments before she goes into the water and the regret she has for going alone.

The verse didn't do much for me either. It felt kind of flat. I sometimes fell into the habit of reading the verse as if it wasn't verse at all - just sentences broken up on different lines (if that makes sense). I did like that the author was creative in throwing in more than just verse. There are also letters from strangers who saw a video of the attack on the news. This is done really well. I loved how they all tied in with Jane's growth throughout the story. There are also dialogues between Jane and her family or friends. Very creative.

So I kind of feel like I've put this book down a lot in this review. To be honest. it was that I didn't like the book. I just ended up feeling like it wasn't good enough. I wanted the story flushed out much more than it was.

My Rating

I read a library copy.

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