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Friday, May 13, 2011

Bluefish - Pat Schmatz

Released September 2011

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Travis Roberts lost everything when his dog disappeared. His parents died when he was young. His grandfather is an alcoholic. Moving to a new home isn't helping Travis feel like he fits in.

Velveeta lost everything when her neighbor died. All he left behind were his wife's scarves. These colorful scarves and his empty trailer are the only way Velveeta finds solace.

Despite their troubles, Velveeta and Travis become friends. Travis hides a secret that he doesn't want anyone to know. Velveeta learns of Travis's secret and is determined to help. With the guidance of Mr. McQueen, one of their teachers, the pair find common ground and begin to come out of their shells.

Bluefish is simply mesmerizing. Though Travis does have anger issues, the reader gets a good look at what he's endured and the challenges he faces. It's pretty easy to sympathize with him. Velveeta is more of an enigma. I didn't feel her past was quite as fleshed out as Travis's. Yet, there are events that infuriated me and caused that instinctive "mom" reflex that had me wanting comfort her. Teens won't have that same reaction, but I'm betting they'll definitely find they have more in common with Velveeta than they first thought.

Alcoholism does play a role in this story. I think Pat Schmatz did an exceptional job with Travis's grandfather. I wasn't sure what to think of him at first, but the more the story progressed, the more I liked him. My aunt was an alcoholic. The nuances of the grandfather are incredibly realistic and had me thinking back to my aunt's struggles.

This isn't your typical teen read. In a day where everything is sparkly vampires, werewolves, or laced with some aspect of the paranormal, I found it refreshing to have a simple coming-of-age story. Kudos to Pat Schmatz for coming up with something a little different in Bluefish.

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