My name is Tess Turner – at least, that’s what I’ve always been told.
I have a voice but it isn’t mine. It used to say things so I’d fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn’t. It lied.
It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren’t the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.
Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.
I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible. Billions of miles away from everything I thought I knew.
Tessie-T has never really felt she fitted in and after what she read that night on her father’s blog she knows for certain that she never will. How she deals with her discovery makes an entirely riveting, heart-breaking story told through Tess’s eyes as she tries to find her place in the world.
I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review.
Having previously read (and loved) Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, I was really looking forward to picking up her new YA offering and was completley hooked from the opening page. Silence is Goldfish tells the story of teenage Tess who, near the beginning of the novel, accidently discovers that her father isn’t her real dad. This unexpected revelation leaves Tess shocked, confused and unsure of her identity and eventually results in her selective mutism. Tess has the ability to speak but she chooses not to.
‘I sit in the middle of my silence, protecting myself from the truth I might be able to forget if I never have to hear myself say it out loud.’
Speaking only in her mind to a flashlight named ‘Mr Goldfish’, Tess struggles to come to terms with her father’s betrayal. Refusing to speak, Tess finds herself cut off from her best friend Isabel and spirals into an isolated exsistence. Throughout her silence, Tess deals with a number of real issues many teenage readers will be able to relate to: bullying, battles with weight and understanding where she came from.
Working as a primary school teacher, I have come across a few children with selective mutism and have never fully taken the time to sit back and think about life from their point of view. It is hard to comprehend just how frustrating it must be to have all these emotions and thoughts flying around your head and not be able to speak them. As the NHS website states, ‘It is important to understand that when mutism happens, the child is not voluntarily refusing to speak but is literally unable to speak, feeling frozen.’ In this instance, the protagonist, Tess, does voluntarily choose not to speak which leaves me wondering whether you can class her story as selective mutism or pure defiance? As Tess explains,
‘There are words, thousands of them, flurrying about beneath the surface like flakes in a snow globe, hurling themselves noiselessly against the glass. And I won’t shatter it. Not for anyone.’
One of the main reasons I love Annabel Pitcher’s writing is her ability to mix hard-hitting issues with touches of comedy gold. Tess’s relationship with ‘Mr Goldfish’ added a comically light element to a story that could have been very depressing. Annabel’s use of figurative language throughout the book is masterful and exactly the kind of language I encourage the children in my own class to use in their writing.
‘The world is too big and I am too small, just one girl searching for a stanger in a population of billions. I feel it, swirling around me, vast as the ocean, a sea of faces I don’t recognise.’
Silence is Goldfish is a brilliant, quick read and one I would recommend for both YA and MG readers.