Thursday, May 3, 2012
May Book Pick -- Bluefish, by Pat Schmatz
Here, though, there's Mr. McQueen, who not only figures out that Travis can't read but also understands how to motivate and teach him. And he meets, or more accurately is met by, a funny girl with problems of her own who calls herself Velveeta and wears a different brightly colored scarf every day. They are joined by Bradley, a smart kid from a stable family who they suspect is slumming, but, slowly, they learn he is not.
This novel gets so many things right that I'm in my usual danger of beginning to gush about a book I love. :) Travis is lovable even though he's angry and reticent. His emotional progression is completely believable; for example, I was convinced that both McQueen's attempt to motivate Travis and Travis's resistance followed by acceptance were real and right on. The story features quirky characters without tipping over into implausibility or making me feel they're quirky for the sake of quirky. The trust that Travis and Velveeta develop progresses believably, even though there is much they never tell each other, and that's believable, too.
The choice of third-person narration in Travis's POV, with each chapter followed by a first-person snippet from Velveeta, seems perfect for this novel. As difficult as some of the issues are, there is always hope. As much as Travis and Velveeta hide things (Travis never even finds out exactly where Velveeta lives), they are always making connections. It's impossible to read this book and still be able to consider kids like Travis, Velveeta, and Bradley to be one-dimensional or stereotypes. Though this book straddles the line between upper MG and young YA, I think its usual young YA designation is very accurate. A lovely book that I highly recommend.