Some books are just therapy. They’re the books you needed as a kid. They’re the books you need right now.
Giving Starfish five stars feels like a disservice to the powerful piece of fiction that it is. Since I operate on a one to five star scale, I suppose I’m stuck, but this book deserves more than that. It is officially my favorite book of 2021 and is now standing alongside A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness as my favorite of all time.
In this middle grade novel written in free verse, I had the pleasure of getting to know Ellie, an eleven year old who loves to write and swim and who has been bullied for her weight for years. The fat shaming doesn’t just happen at school. In her own home, her only ally is her dad, and she is constantly made to feel ashamed for her size. She cannot even pick up healthy food without being criticized.
I related hardcore to this book. I won’t go into my personal details, but I will say that so much of what Ellie expressed made sense to me and conjured a lot of emotion.
Lisa Fipps writes with eloquence, while still capturing the voice of a young, insecure girl perfectly. Just about every short chapter made me pause to reflect or catch my breath. Ellie’s story is heartbreaking, but it’s also a story of personal growth and self-acceptance. We, as the readers, learn alongside Ellie about how our own words can hurt, along with how we can defend ourselves in healthy ways. It’s really amazing what Fipps managed to do with this novel and I really hope that she will grace the world with more of her work in the future.
I do believe that many children can find meaning in this story, but there are also adults who have never learned their own value. They can benefit from its beauty as well. While I’d like to believe that some bullies could read this and reconsider the impact of their words, I know that won’t likely be true for most of them. But if the rest of us stand firm in our right to take up space, maybe they won’t have as many words to fling at us.
There is no doubt that Lisa Fipps put her whole heart into this story. If you’ve ever been wounded by the cruelty of others, I know you’ll find pieces of your own heart reflected within these pages.