BOOK REVIEW: Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell
I wandered familiar streets feeling lost in the darkness, too scared of the stuff inside my head to be afraid of anything outside it. And now here I am with a plan that involves a goldfish, who looks shocked because this is not at all what he thought was going to happen when he woke up this morning next to the bottles of de-icer at the Texaco Garage that is the only home he’s ever known.
Tess has just read something shocking. Six hundred and seventeen words in which her father revealed that he wasn’t actually her father, and that his first feeling when she was born was one of disgust.
Tess wasn’t meant to read this, and her father… no, not her father, Jack, doesn’t know she saw it, doesn’t know why she’s suddenly stopped talking and is refusing to follow instructions. She’s defiant, she’s distant, she’s possibly lost it.
There were a lot of interesting themes within this novel, and it had the building blocks to make something amazing, but it came together as a rather uneven story.
Multiple things within this novel suggested that, perhaps, the main character might have started out as a lot younger, and been aged to fit slightly more adult themes.
Things that suggested this might be more at home in a middle grade novel include:
- The way that Tess reacted to situations.
- The things she thought.
- The fact that she didn’t look logically at… anything.
- How willing Tess was to believe the old “if you tell anyone about this, I’ll get you in trouble” threat.
- How willing she was to believe that her new Maths teacher could be the donor of the sperm that created her.
- The talking goldfish torch.
- And the fact that not a single person in this novel suggested to Tess that she might be able to write something down, whether to answer their questions or just to communicate, but rather went with the fact that she couldn’t/wouldn’t speak.
Reasons why this might have been adjusted upwards in age group included:
- Tess and some others going to a bar. (Even though they were underage, it’s more believable that a fifteen year old could get in, than a twelve year old.)
- The particular style of bullying towards Tess.
- Authority figures manipulating youths in their care.
- Talk of extra-marital affairs.
The catalyst for this story, the child of a sperm donor discovering her origin, was a nice twist on the oft-explored adoption or step-parent themes. This, as well as some great lines throughout, the relationship between Tess and her talking goldfish torch, and the selective mutism theme were the best parts of this novel.
Unfortunately, the weird syntax paired with the unevenness of the story brought it from a six or seven star rating down to a four. This was a mostly okay read, and easy to get through, but it wasn’t as compelling as I was hoping for, and Tess really didn’t read any older than twelve.
I will be keeping an eye out for more titles by Annabel Pitcher, as I feel that there is the potential for greatness in her writing, but this one fell flat.
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