Being Fishkill

Ruth Lehrer. Candlewick, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8442-6
In Lehrer’s engrossing first novel, 12-year-old Carmel Fishkill (named after a highway exit sign her mother, Keely, glimpsed while giving birth in the back seat of a car) decides that starting seventh grade in a new school is an opportunity to toughen up her image, now that her abusive grandfather is dead and her drug-addicted mother has vanished. Starting with a name reversal, Carmel becomes dangerous Fishkill, but her plan is thrown off course when precocious but equally tough Duck-Duck Farina befriends her. Flashbacks to the poverty and neglect Fishkill endured with her grandfather (there are strong hints that he is actually Fishkill’s father) and mother sharply contrast with Duck-Duck’s affectionate relationship with her nurturing gay mother and their well-kept home, into which Fishkill is welcomed. The sexual identities of Duck-Duck’s mother and Fishkill, who grows attracted to Duck-Duck, are simply an understated part of the story’s backdrop. The plot, as well as Duck-Duck and Fishkill’s friendship, twists and turns as Keely reappears and disappears, until a tragic development changes the entire tone of the book, providing a bittersweet resolution. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/18/2017
Release date: 11/14/2017
Genre: Children's
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