Review: Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher


My name is Tess Turner - at least, that's what I've always been told.

I have a voice but it isn't mine. It used to say things so I'd fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn't. It lied.

It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren't the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.
(from Goodreads)


The best thing about this book - at least in my head - is the characters. They are raw, well-imagined and emotional: Tess in particular is beautifully flawed and I love how moving it was to read from her point of view. She might not be speaking, but the silence only concentrates her emotions, and it's amazing to watch. Or . . . read. The author also needs a lot of credit for how well she has developed the adults in this book: far too many YA books have parents as absent or barely-there figures, but in Silence, it was really easy to see their motivations and how Tess' actions were affecting them. Tess has a great relationship with her Nan, too, and it's so lovely to see that she has someone, at least, to stick too when everything else crashes down round her ears.

And then there's Isabel.

Isabel . . . Isabel is my sort of elf. Her love of book vouchers and getting to school on time might as well make her my spirit animal, her and Tess have one of the best-ever described goofball relationships I've seen in a book (trust me, I know what it's like in real life), and anyone who spends her entire time at school scribbling in a notebook is going to be well-respected by someone like me. Tess is interesting, sure, but Isabel was even more flawlessly imagined.


So, have we gone through all the characters? So now I have to talk  about the main problem, where Tess looks for her own identity. Ah.

I know she's emotionally unstable during the course of this book - that kind of makes sense. But however sympathetic I am towards a person's situation and all the horrible stuff they're going through, it's hard to support them when they do things you just know will end badly. *cough* stealing a teacher's wallet *cough*. In fact, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her parents, especially Jack.

Or was that the point? To feel both Tess' devastation and her parents' frustration? And that conflict? I've literally written this entire blog post unsure whether Silence is Goldfish was portraying confusion in an amazing way or just confusing.

I'm confused.

Basically, this book is good. I think my favourite thing about it was the way it dealt with the fallibility of authority figures, like those of Tess' parents, family and teachers (there were some seriously questionable teachers) through the lens of someone who really needed them to help her. It was heartbreaking to watch the people around Tess either try to help her and fail because they didn't have the knowledge, or have the knowledge but not bother to help her because they were too self-absorbed.

So if you want to read about confusion painted in a poignant way, or poignant emotions through a confused character's point of view - or you just want to meet a character as unique and brilliant as Isabel - then do this. Read Silence is Goldfish. You'll love it.
In the comments: Have you read Silence is Goldfish? Tell me - did you like it? Why? And if you haven't yet, does it sound like your sort of thing?
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