Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher
Hachette, 2015. ISBN 9781780620008
(Age: 13+) Recommended. 'I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible. Billions of miles away from everything I thought I knew.'
Did you, as a child, look around and wonder if you belonged in your family? Are you a person who thought they must have been adopted? Tess has just read that her father, Jack, is not really her father. Not only that, but he was revolted by his first sight of her.
Tess is an introverted 15 year old and her already uncomfortable world has been turned upside down. Now she is looking through eyes that see everything Jack and her mother do as somehow sinister and deceitful. She begins a mute protest, refusing to speak to anyone. Her once strong, and mutually strengthening relationship with her friend Isabel is the first casualty of this decision.
Tess' relationship with her Grandmother is touching and genuinely caring. It also serves as another lens through which Tess examines her parents and relatives.
Tess has been ruthlessly bullied at school, and on the internet. Being mute escalates the bullying and Tess survives this torment by relying on Mr Goldfish. Mr Goldfish acts as confidante and ally. The challenges to Tess' thinking and decisions are generated by Mr Goldfish and at times prevent her immaturity and naivety overtaking her. He helps her understand that people are not always as they appear, even when you think you know them really well.
This book sensitively probes the intensity of the teenage years through the themes of friendship, family relationship, bullying and body image. The bullying is unfortunately not addressed or resolved in this story. The characters are believable and there is humour provided by Mr Goldfish that serves to break the tension.