Book Review

Book Review : Bluefish by Pat Schmatz.

BluefishFirst day, new school, no way out.

Travis hates being in the new town with Grandpa. He hates that they left their old home without finding their dog, Rosco. Travis doesn’t see the point of trying anymore. He feels stupid, angry, alone.

Then, suddenly, there’s a girl. Velveeta is as loud as Travis is quiet, as outgoing as he is shut in. She can see that Travis has a secret. And she should know, because she’s got a few of her own.

Velveeta is on the case: it’s time for Travis to tell the truth.

I think this is a real gem of a book. It’s a wonderful story with great characters that leaves you feeling really content as you read the final page.

The story is primarily about Travis, a boy with some pretty significant anger and emotional issues. He’s deeply resentful of the fact his grandfather has made them move, and particularly hurt and angry that their dog went missing just before they moved and his grandfather didn’t find him. School’s a real battlefield for Travis, he’s never been very keen on school for very good reasons and having to integrate into a new one seems like just too much. Luckily for him he hasn’t counted on two people entering his life, Mr McQueen – one of those super-teachers everyone should have the joy of encountering during their educational experience, and Velveeta who really shares the story. She also has secrets, she’s got some lousy adults in her life too and is trying very hard to make her own way in the world, however she can manage. Over the course of the book Travis and Velveeta’s stories become increasingly entwined and they pick away at the walls each other has built to keep the world out.

The characters Schmatz has created are great, I adored Mr McQueen – it’s so good to see a teacher who really cares, I was fortunate enough to encounter a couple of teachers like this when I was in high school so I always love seeing them in the books I read. My favourite character was Travis, he absolutely jumped off the page at me. I felt so invested in his story, he’s absolutely the kind of teen that makes me want to be a youth librarian.

The bulk of the book tells Travis’ story, but at the end of each chapter there is a page or two where Velveeta gets to tell her version of events from the same day. I really liked this structure, it was nice getting to hear from both of the teens and I think Schmatz has captured their very different voices perfectly.

I really enjoyed reading this book, it takes on some pretty big issues and handles them all in a careful and sympathetic manner. This is the sort of book that could have been cheesy or mawkish, but instead it’s realistic and the sort of book the reader can really identify with. Highly recommended.

Bluefish is published by Walker in the UK from 3rd January 2013. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

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