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YA Review: Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Title: Starfish

Author: Lisa Fipps
Year published: 2023
Category: Young Adult fiction (verse)
Pages: 256 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)USA (TX, IN)

SummaryEver since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she's been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules—like "no making waves," "avoid eating in public," and "don't move so fast that your body jiggles." And she's found her safe space—her swimming pool—where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It's also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie's weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life--by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Review: This book is so well done. I like that it's in verse since I read it on my phone and verse was easier than prose. The subject is such an important one: body shaming (which as we all know, runs the gamut from you're too skinny to you're too fat). Rather than being a depressing novel, this one shows all sides of life: the trauma and the humor.

For me, this novel has personal connections. I have been overweight since I was 17 and have had dieting and food-as-a-major-topic in my life since I was very small. There were moments in this book that were painful and brought tears, there were moments that made me smile, and there were moments when I wanted to grab Ellie and tell her she is ok and not defined by the way her body looks. I think I need to think about that last one in particular. 

Ellie's mom is so not helpful. Wait. Change that. She is harmful. I am sure she has her own body issues, but to treat her daughter the way she did is inexcusable. Thank goodness she has her dad and her best friends around. I also loved the family next door who love Ellie for who she is and not what she looks like.

And don't get me started on the horrible kids at school and the teachers/administrators who basically did nothing about the bullying. Unfortunately, I think this is far too common. First off, educators don't often see the bullying, but when we do.... do something!

This book is just so well done. It is honest, raw, loving, self-affirming, and more. I gotta say I love the idea of being a starfish and "taking up space."

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Literary Escapes--Indiana

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