ONE TO WATCH OUT FOR: Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

Article published on June 24, 2015.

It takes a brave author to deny her heroine and narrator the power of speech for almost the entirety of her story. However, Ms Pitcher has proved herself adept at taking issues with a particular importance to her YA readership and developing them into a meaningful tale. I am a long-standing admirer of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and Ketchup Clouds -both nb Recommended Reads – in which Ms Pitcher explored interesting teenage dilemmas from their perspective.

So, how does Tess Turner, 15, cope without the ability to explain her own dilemma to the very people who caused it? A self-declared Pluto – silent and inaccessible apart from to her friend Isabel, a true geek – Tess has seen 617 words of a blog written by her Dad. In it he reveals he is not her biological father and that he didn’t, couldn’t love her at birth, even though he and his wife had gone into the arrangement willingly.

Teenagers have few sanctions against adults these days, withdrawing from conversation being one of them: Tess becomes mute and uncooperative, confusing her parents and the world around her – as well as herself.

At which point Mr Goldfish comes to the rescue, being a cheap children’s torch from a local garage. Bought when Tess runs away to find out who her true father is, Mr Goldfish turns out to be the Jiminy Cricket of this story. And better than being purely a conscience he has a wicked sense of humour and a neat turn of phrase.

Peer group pressure, unreliable adult behaviour and adolescent life today all meld into an engrossing read although – and perhaps this is because I am an adult – I sometimes felt the early narrative languished in teenage angst for too long. No matter, I finished at a gallop and yes there’s resolution but not quite as you expect, which is always good. So that’s three out of three for Annabel Pitcher – this young lady is worth your attention and I for one would like to see what she could do in an adult arena. Failing that, I’d love to see Mr Goldfish given another runout.

Guy Pringle, June 2015

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher will be published in hbk by Indigo Oct 1st, 2015

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