Most people can remember an awkward event in middle school, a day when they were target of their classmates' laughter or bullying. And most people are lucky if there was only an event - singular. In this case, however, a middle grade girl is overweight, so it is definitely is not just one incident or one day or one week to suffer through. The retort if she tries to defend herself is - lose weight if you don't like to be teased about being fat.
This debut novel, Starfish, captures young Ellie Hofstein's agony perfectly. Readers will wince as they read, even if weight wasn't an issue in their lives. Ellie started out as a chubby kid and never lost the so-called baby fat. So now she's approaching being a teenager and people call her a whale; even her own siblings joke about the tsunami when she enters the pool. So she tries so hard, so very hard, to not even make a ripple. But the sadness continues to gnaw away at her mental stability when even her mother focuses on Ellie's weight, explaining to her father that she hasn't bought Ellie new clothes since she is gaining weight. The mother doesn't want to continue to buy bigger and bigger clothes. Dad gives in to the mother's focus on weight, and when he agrees that Ellie should see a therapist, Ellie feels completely betrayed.
The poetry format is perfect for emphasizing the right words that emphasize the heartache for each incident. And this book has plenty of it, along with a lesson from a special boutique about young people needing to know there are others like them and finding a possible avenue for healing.