Please read this book! This is definitely on my best books of 2021 list and if I could have read it in one sitting, I would have. It is an important read for teen girls and their mothers. We are all important. We all have value. We are all worthy of respect. You know its a great book when I read the ARC and still go out and preorder the hardcover (March 9, 2021, Ages 10+))
Starfish is a book in verse about a girl named Ellie. Unfortunately, the world is cruel and people have taken to calling her Splash. She loves the water, a place where she can be weightless and free, but got her nickname when her older sister started calling her that after an impressive cannonball when she was 5. We meet her as the new school year is about to begin. Her best friend, Viv, is moving away, and while she makes friend with the new-girl who moved in next door, Catalina is going to a different school. Ellie is terrified of walking the hallways by herself. Why? Ellie is bullied. She is bullied by the kids at school and she is bullied by her mother and brother. Her father seems to be the only one who doesn’t bully her, but he agrees that she could use therapy.
Ellie struggles to make it through her days without feeling that she is underserving and worthless. She writes down her “Fat Girl Rules,” like “When you hear laughter, someone’s laughing at you.” Any girl who has been fat can look at these rules throughout the book and nod their heads. People are cruel in this book. If you think that no one could possibly act that way, think again. Why is it okay to make fun of people if they are overweight? Do people think they don’t have feelings? And it isn’t as easy as just losing the weight, if it was, well duh.
The thing that broke my heart the most was Ellie’s mother. Her mother has her best intentions at heart, but is going about it ALL WRONG. She watches everything Ellie puts in her mouth. She tells her daughter that she is fat. She puts up articles in the kitchen about losing weight. She won’t buy her new clothing for school and talks about gastric bypass. She holds things back from Ellie saying “when you lose the weight….”
Fortunately, there are good characters in the book. Even though miles away, Viv is an amazing friend. Catalina and her entire family welcome her into their home and lives. Even though Ellie refuses to speak at first when she starts therapy, she has a therapist that gets her and will wait it out. And her English teacher is awesome.
As the book progresses, Ellie gets stronger. Her growth makes is realistic and raw. She learns to start standing up for herself without breaking other people down. She starts to claim her own right to be there by calling bullies out. When the major bullying event happens, no one is able to ignore the situation anymore. You are complicit if you know that something awful is going to happen or does happen and you say nothing. But that event is thankfully the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Standing up for yourself is hard for most teens. Standing up for yourself when you are constantly being knocked down is downright terrible. Somehow weight is the final frontier that people are still able to bully about. But we all deserve to be treated with respect. We deserve to have doctors who look at the whole person instead of saying that every. single. problem we have is because of our weight. Our words need to be used “as tools, not weapons.”
They give people an excuse to
hate people who are different
instead of taking the time
to get to know them.”