The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The Nitty Gritty: Ellie's world is about to get sucker punched in the gut. First, her best friends runs off for greener pastures with the volleyball team, her father is off on a tour with his play company and her mother is a hipster looking for some fashion sense. If that isn't enough her grandfather is now a moody teenager.
Like most people Ellie doesn't like change, but her grandfather and more importantly her dearly departed goldfish, Goldie just might teach the middle schooler that change is a necessary part of life.
The Opening Line: Eleven year old Ellie never liked change.
The Good: This was a cute and light read. Something that I would recommend to any budding scientist. Especially girls. Anything to show girls that they can be more than what TV and Twilight is telling them is ok in my book. We are really starting to question gender roles and girls are breaking out of that Victorian mold we've been regulated to since...well the Victorian era, and now authors are starting to get on the bandwagon and I am all for it.
Ellie as a main character was a bit simple minded to the point that I wanted to slap her with a better education, but then she would pop up and cook breakfast and I would like her again. Anyone that cooks is A-ok in my book. Ellie was a different kettle of fish from her other literary counterparts in that she isn't boy crazy, worrying about her looks, bemoaning her lack of social status and all that other nonsense. I like that. Women are multifaceted creatures and I like that Holm is giving us that. Especially in a younger character. Its so important to show girls that all that they are is ok. You can be the shy artsy girl, or the kooky theater girl, the math geek, the volleyball girl, the cheerleader, or the test tube chaser. Its ok to be all of those things and she still be a girl and still be awesome.
Or you can be the girl that doesn't really know what she wants to do yet. Ellie is that girl. She knows she has a fountain of passion bubbling away inside her, she just hasn't found her outlet and she wasn't rushed to find it. The "grown-ups" in her life allowed her to find it. There wasn't any pressure to be this or be that. Sure her parents wanted to expose her to the things they loved, but she was free to like it or not.
I think that is a great lesson for kids and parents.
The Bad: Ellie and her mother just accept that this teenage boy is her grandfather/father without much ado about nothing. There's no discussion, no screaming, tears, denial...nothing. He just walks in the door and everyone accepts it. I call BS on that. If my 90 year old grandfather suddenly turned up in the body of a 13 year old I would have a few questions and a hard time swallowing that. And I write fractured fairy tales for a living.
The chapters ended abruptly and they started off in weird places. There was a bit of a disconnect there.
This book was a tad hard on the "soft science" or the creative arts. Though it did have a redeeming moment in the kitchen between Ellie and her grandfather as they looked through her late grandmother's recipe book. I thought that was a very Southern thing. Don't get me wrong I know people in the North have recipe books, but for a girl in the South getting her mother's or grandmother's recipe book is a right of passage. When I got my grandmother's cast iron skillet I cried. That scene for me tugged at all my heart strings.
This book would work better in 3rd person. Everything is on the surface with the characters and their development. Sure Ellie does go through a change as all growing kids do, but I didn't feel it was genuine. I would have loved to have really gotten into the head of her grandfather. This is one character that had one foot in the grave and now he gets to do it all over again. All we got from his was black hole hunger and sullen teen. We got that in Twilight. I just wanted a little more. The first person POV hindered that.
Final thoughts: All in all it was a cute, entertaining book that had hidden layers of depth.