Review Blog

May 02 2018

Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer

cover image

Candlewick Books, 2018. ISBN 9780763684426
(Age: Mature14+) Being Fishkill focusses on 12-year-old Carmel Fishkill who is named after a highway exit sign her mother, Keely, glimpsed while giving birth in the back seat of a car. Her life is complex and she decides that starting seventh grade in a new school is an opportunity to reshape her image, now that her abusive grandfather is dead, and her drug-addicted mother has vanished. Starting with a name reversal, Carmel becomes the tough girl, Fishkill, but her plan is thrown off course when the more precocious but equally tough Duck-Duck Farina befriends her.
The novel is dark, with moments of lightness, as Fishkill quietly 'fights' to establish an identity that is not based on her dysfunctional family. This narrative is about a search for connections and also enters the realm of the first stages of exploring sexual identity.
For me, as a reader, Fishkill and Duck-Duck seemed much older than their 12 years, and that caused a block in the plausibility of their characters.
There are flashbacks to a disrupted and disturbing life with her mother and grandfather. This is countered with Duck-Duck's mother, Molly. who welcomes her into the home.
There are many twists and turns in this novel which would keep the reader engaged. Emotions and experiences are intense and at times confronting.
I would recommend this for more mature readers of 14 years and up.
Maree Samuel

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