Silence is Goldfish Paperback – 8 Sep 2016
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Exploring the importance of family, friends and being yourself, this is another standout book from an award-winning author. When Tess Turner accidentally looks at her dad's computer, she realises why she's never felt like she fits in. Her reaction is to stop speaking, except inside her own head, and what follows is a poignant and compelling story. (The Sun Online)
Pitcher writes clearly and elegantly and the novel is full of her trademark wit (DAILY TELEGRAPH ONLINE)
Pitcher excels at the emotional tangles of adolescence and never whitewashes Tess's own faults as she stumbles from one mistake to another ... Another winner from the author of the bestselling Ketchup Clouds (Daily Mail)
Strong in substance and originality, Pitcher continues to bring boldness and uniqueness to YA (WE LOVE THIS BOOK)
This novel is both heart-breaking and hilarious. Tess is a fabulous protagonist, a strong, outgoing girl who tries her hardest to please those around her, yet one who deals with daily bullying on account of her size and unconventional looks. Her journey of self-discovery is incredibly difficult and you cannot help but cheer her on every step of the way. It is exceptionally well written and an absolute joy to read. (BOOK TRUST)
Pitcher delivers a story of betrayal and miscues among family and friends with a realistic blend of humor and gravity as Tess slides toward mental instability. An unflinchingly honest portrayal of anguish. (Kirkus)
Witty, heart-warming ... a lovely story about overcoming convention and coming to accept yourself (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
Silence is Goldfish is a rare gem of a book: it features the kind of protagonist we need more of. Not the feisty, popular heroines we wish we could be, but the grounded, empowered heroines we are. (GUARDIAN CHILDREN'S BOOKS)
Pitcher brilliantly captures the elasticity of the teenage mind, its ability to apprehend reality in a multiplicity of angles, its tendency to see itself alternatively as a speck of dust in the universe or as an all-encompassing being. Picher's writing is intriguing, riveting, respectful, true and oh so funny. (Inis Reading Guide 2015-16)
The book immediately feels like a Pitcher novel and her beautiful writing style is what really makes it enjoyable. (GUARDIAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS)
A beautiful, well-told tale (Telegraph & Argus)
SILENCE IS GOLDFISH is a story that demands to be heard - the third YA novel from the bestselling and prizewinning author of MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE and KETCHUP CLOUDS.See all Product description
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Tess begins this story as the typical kind-of nerdy teenage girl. She’s different to most of the kids in her year but unlike her friend Isabel, doesn’t have the confidence within herself to be okay with standing out. Instead, she tries her best to fade into the background and fit in, like she thinks her family wants for her. Shortly after the book starts, Tess reads a document on her dad’s computer, a short blog post he has written which unveils a huge secret that devastates Tess. Her reaction is individual, to say the least. Not knowing what to say, Tess stops talking. Altogether. Nobody understands why – not her parents, Isabel, her teachers – but they soon realise that Tess isn’t about to start talking any day soon.
Tess is an introvert. I connected with her from the beginning, I guess maybe because I could partly relate to the time I spent in school cut off from most other people, but enjoying my own company. We really get to see her character change and develop throughout this book and there were moments when I wasn’t so keen on the choices she was making and times when I found myself really rooting for her, and willing her to break her silence. The reactions Tess had to everything she experienced in this book turned Silence is Goldfish into a really thought-provoking story. I liked that Annabel always wrote in a style that left me thinking and constantly considering what I had just read. I’m not sure if I was meant to have mixed feelings on Tess but I know I did. Early on in the book, when Tess is still talking, we meet Isabel and I loved the way they spoke with each other. Isabel was just my kind of person. I adored her character, how she was out there and not afraid to be different, or at least she didn’t show it. She felt comfortable in her own skin and that was so buoying to see from a girl of her age. I really bought into this great friendship Isabel had with Tess which meant that I then found it a bit sad that Tess hadn’t told her parents about Isabel. She wasn’t sure what her dad would make of her friend and so, almost ashamed, she said she’d been spending time with a girl called Anna instead (who incidentally, meanly, found the whole idea of Tess disgusting). Her parents didn’t even know Isabel existed and I found that disheartening, and felt sorry for Isabel, because in my opinion, Tess should have been proud to have a friend like Isabel who was caring, considerate, accepting and so true to herself.
Tess, being a bit overweight and different, is bullied, mainly by a group of three girls – the aforementioned Anna being one of them. Standing up to bullies is difficult to start with but when you’re not talking, it’s virtually impossible. The bullying at school seemed to play out in a quite typical way. I’m not saying it wasn’t believable, I actually found the bullying scenes to be realistic and I felt for Tess, though the attitudes of the girls bullying her kind of had a Mean Girls feel to them which was bit overdone. The social media aspect to the bullying of Tess struck me the most because it felt more real and current and a theme that fiction should now be exploring more and more because bullying is now made so much easier in the way that you don’t even have to be bold enough to say things to someone’s face. Bullies can be anonymous, as Tess discovered here, and in a way that makes things even worse.
I wasn’t sure how this story would work once Tess stopped talking. How would we get to know Tess if we never heard a thing from her? That never became an issue because through the use of a goldfish – sort of – Tess finds her voice and though she isn’t talking to other people, we get to see her thoughts in the same manner. It’s a bit hard to explain, makes more sense when you’re reading it, but I’m still not sure what I actually thought of the way this was told. It was unusual and there were times when I stopped to think, what am I reading?, yet at the same time I was fascinated, too. Either way, Tess’ overall silence was moving and I sympathised with her whilst wanting her to find her voice. Every time I thought that her approach was a bit more childlike than her age suggested, I reminded myself of how vulnerable she must have been feeling and how it’s hard to understand mental health and all the things building up inside someone’s head which lead up to actions you may not ever properly understand. Because Tess was, in pretty much every other way, that average teenager. Quite naïve, easily influenced, changeable, looking out for herself first and foremost, rash, a bit frustrating and frustrated. To me she wasn’t particularly likeable nor was she dislikeable – simply a character I really wanted to get to know.
As I was getting closer to finishing Silence is Goldfish, I could tell I wasn’t going to be completely satisfied with the ending because pages were running out and nothing was being resolved. I would have liked an extended ending – it sort of felt like, something huge was made out of the secret Tess discovered at the beginning and very little happened to try and fix things at the end. In fact, if Tess hadn’t turned mute then things could have been made a bit better with just a little communication so really I felt like the ending needed to be made a bit more fulfilling. There were strands to the story I would have liked to learn more about at the end, people I wanted to hear more about. But at the same time, when I think about this book now it’s over, I can’t forget how much I truly enjoyed it. Aspects to Silence is Goldfish were very different to anything I’ve read before. Characters were strong and fleshed out. The voice (or lack of voice, I suppose) was fresh and compelling. The themes Annabel explored were touching and strikingly written. I was with Tess all the way as she poignantly discovers that people aren’t who they seem and as she heartbreakingly reaches out for that feeling of belonging. Though I have so much to say about Silence is Goldfish, this is a book so difficult to talk about. I do believe it is well worth a read.
Then, all the differences, both physical and emotional, between she and her loved-up parents come to light in her teenage head, and drive a huge chasm in the filial relationship.
Silence is golden, but in this case, silence is goldfish, for the author’s authorly imaginative reasons. And it works. We have a teen novel that turns on the foundation of the protagonist seeing words she was not meant to see, and building a mountain of stories in her head about them, on which she takes the actions that form the narrative of this 363-page novel.
There were episodes from the 25% to 75 % points of the novel where the repetitions of Tess’ personal self put-downs, bullying episodes and those words, forbidden to her eyes, made a soggy middle. Yet, Annabel Pitcher’s voice made me turn the pages to find out what Tess did do, and how it all ended up. And it was a satisfying ending.
Tess is unique in Young Adult literature. She is not a swan who thinks she is an ugly duckling. The author lets us think she is an ugly duckling. She does not hanker for the hot guy, like the other girls do. These things help give the story its pulling power. What I wished was for Tess to have more backbone. But then the story is not written by me. The author can do whatever she wants, and she has done so, very well for the most part.
The humour that went with the goldfish was laugh-out-loud in cases. And the Jack versus Jack as father was poignant. Two sides of the spectrum in a novel is rare, and this is what makes “Silence is Goldfish” enjoyable.
Now to the best part. 17-year-old Henry Richardson is one of my favourite teen characters in Young Adult books, ever. Not only the best-looking boy in the world, but also wise in an old-head-on-young-shoulders kind of way, empathetic, not frightened by silences, aware of the world and of its shortcomings but not in a didactic way. In a ‘I am a vulnerable 17 year-old, and I am trying to make sense of my place in the world’ way. And he is clean-thinking. Move over Edward Cullen.
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*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.Read more
Tess Turner has just discovered something terrible. She read her dad’s blog and six hundred and seventeen words later her world is kind of coming...Read more
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