Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Friday, July 2, 2010

author’s website: Kelly Bingham
release date: April 10, 2007
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: contemporary
length: 288 pages (paperback)
publisher: Candlewick Press
overall rating: 5 stars
body image & self perception issue: loss of arm

*the back cover*
On a sunny day at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything – absolutely everything – changed. Now she’s counting the days until she returns to school with her fake arm and kids will whisper, “That’s her. That’s Shark Girl,” when she passes. But right now there are only questions. Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life?

*my review*
This book carries you along on the incredible journey Jane takes in her path to recovering from a shark attack. Through a combination of free verse poems, newspaper articles, letters to Jane, and conversations, Kelly Bingham brings us Jane’s first year after the shark attack. Jane’s account is all told through the free verse poems, some current and some memories, and through this account, you feel Jane’s frustration, anger, sadness, and eventually determination. The change in emotion is very apparent throughout this story, and at first I thought that the division of the book into three parts would mimic Jane’s changing attitude, but it isn’t quite that exact.
While Jane does show a lot of growth throughout the story, there are times when she seems to contradict herself, which adds to her realistic quality. In the hospital, Jane meets Justin, a younger boy (Jane guesses 8, 9, or 10, but it never says) who has lost a leg and is also recovering. Justin seems to be exactly what Jane needs. He doesn’t want to talk about their injuries, but just wants to be friends. It is incredible how supportive Jane is of Justin, and how much she admires that he is accomplishing new tasks, which she is still unable to accept her own look.
Another important man in Jane’s story is her brother, Michael. The relationship Jane and Michael have is very interesting. He obviously cares about Jane, but as he pushes her to do and try new things, she gets more and more frustrated. He seems to want her to improve her attitude and just get over the accident, but can’t seem to grasp how difficult it is for Jane to do that.
I don’t usually like books that are told in verse, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. The segmented feel that comes from the varied format seems to augment the telling of Jane’s story. It captures her sharp and cutting attitude at the beginning, but then begins to unfold the layers of her personality as she begins to heal, both physically and emotionally, from what is a genuinely tragic event. While this book doesn’t have the happiest beginning, it is an amazing story about determination, emotions, and ultimately, self acceptance.

*short and snappy*
writing: creative – the combination of poetry, news reports, and conversations is an interesting way to approach this story and I think the somewhat segmented feel helps in the telling.
plot: sometimes, it’s hard to tell that time in the story has passed and other times, it is obviously flying by – I imagine that Jane feels similarly in her recovery though, so it works
characters: Jane is very complete, since the story is told from her point of view. There isn’t a ton of development in other characters, but enough to make them realistic
memorable line: Can you imagine getting your arm bitten off by a shark?
As though getting your arm bitten off by a lion would be easier to live with. (p. 231)
judging by the cover: I like the cover. The contrast between the rough water on the left and the calm water on the right captures the feel of Jane’s recovery


asamum said...

Great review. Shame the other characters werent developed as something like that affects all the family not just the person concerned.

Jo said...

Great review, Molly! This sounds like such a brilliant book! I think I'll have to try and find myself a copy, it sounds so good! I have to say pressure from family members seems to have a presence in all novels on body image. Thanks for the awesome review!

Alessandra @Out of the Blue said...


I'm visiting your blog for the first time through a link for BISP month. It's lovely :) I also like the "short and snappy" part of your review. It's what I was struggling to come up with for my blog.

I haven't read Shark Girl, but it sounds interesting.

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