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Reviewed by:
  • Starfish by Lisa Fipps
  • Deborah Stevenson, Editor
Fipps, Lisa Starfish. Paulsen/Penguin, 2021 [256p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781984814500 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781984814517 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 5–7

“You don’t deserve/to be seen or heard,/ to take up room,/ to be noticed./ Make yourself small.” That’s the core of the Fat Girl Rules inscribed by Ellie, nicknamed Splash after a poolside cannonball in early childhood drew fatphobic teasing. As sixth grade starts, she knows it’ll be hell, and she’s right: the bullying her peer group habitually engages in has only gotten more vicious, and worse still, her mother is controllingly, cruelly obsessed with Ellie’s weight (“Ellie, we’re just trying to fix you”). In this free-verse novel, Fipps is laceratingly authentic about the kind of “teasing” and “help” that Ellie is constantly subject to, and the family dynamic, wherein her father dislikes her mother’s treatment but rarely intervenes, is sadly believable. The book gains hopefulness from Ellie’s experience with a gifted therapist and from her growing friendship with neighbor Catalina and her warm family. There’s not much dimension to secondary characters (or even Ellie) beyond the central problem of fatphobia, but the intense focus mirrors a lot of experience, and readers will be glad to see Ellie eventually “starfishing—starting to claim my right to take up space.”



Additional Information

Print ISSN
p. 296
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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