THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH, BY JENNIFER L. HOLM
I really wanted to like this book. The person who recommended it to me is a very dear friend, and a wonderful soul. I tried so hard...
This is a children's book. I don't agree with it, but some people say allowances have to be made for that. In any case, if you decide to read it, keep that in mind.
Synopsis: Ellie is an 11 year-old girl with artistic parents who is currently suffering a break-up from her best friend, and doesn't like the change. One day, her grandfather, Melvin, appears at her house as a 13 year-old boy, announcing he's discovered the cure for aging. As Ellie and her mother adapt to their new situation, significant and deep changes are wrought in all their lives.
Overall enjoyment: Meh. I tried, I really did. And I suppose I would have liked it less if I hadn't tried.
Plot: The idea is really interesting, but it's poorly executed. There's no development, no climax, and everything is a bit too obvious. The chapters are very disconnected from each other.
Characters: They don't feel like people at all, they're walking clichés. Ellie is the only one with a bit of life in her; I'll admit she's very well constructed. But all the others are stereotypes: the grumpy old man, the artsy-hipster mom, the goth kid...
World/setting: Again, it's like she did the bare minimum. It doesn't play a big part on the story, though.
Writing style: A bit sloppy. The book feels like a first draft. It feels unfinished, and, up to a point, that's what bothers me the most. I kept thinking "this could be such a good book with a bit of rewriting and editing!" The first chapter is really good, sweet and interesting, with a bit of humor. The rest is just a bunch of disjointed phrases thrown together. And it really bothered me how obvious things were. I don't mean the suspense of the story, but the characters' feelings and motivations; she kept spelling them out all the time. It may be a children's book, but kids aren't stupid. They're perfectly capable of understanding those things, you don't have to explain that to them.
Representation: She didn't specify anybody's ethnicity. There was a kid named Raj, with a brother named Andalos, but she doesn't even describe them. And everyone is cis, straight and able-bodied.
Political correctness: This book was made to get kids interested in science, so that's a plus. It's even more specifically addressed at girls, with a girl as a main character, so that's a double plus. I just wish it had been better written. Something I enjoyed immensely, though, was the fact that she didn't try to force romance onto the kids. Ellie meets a boy, and they become friends, but not a couple. I can't tell you how satisfying that was. And how uncomfortable I was while reading, sure that, despite the fact that this is an 11 year-old girl, they would end up kissing, or something.
This one was not entirely bad, just disappointing. Especially after it started off so strong.
Up next: Yes Please, by Amy Poehler