The Fourteenth Goldfish
By Jennifer Holm
ARC e-book, 208 pages (hardcover)
2014, Random House
ISBN: 9780375870644 (hardcover)
Expected Publication Date: August 26, 2014
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Blurb from NetGalley: “Science can change the world…but can it go too far? Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?”
This was a cute book – I read it all in one sitting and I would guess it would be just as engrossing for the target audience (grades 5-7 according to Amazon). This book was easy to understand, yet threaded the science facts throughout, making them part of Ellie’s discoveries and newfound interest in science, rather than just throwing facts at kids for the sake of some educational value. Turning 12, Ellie is also entering middle school and starting to deal with the difficulties that come along with that. Teenage years are awkward and can be hard to handle, but so can the pre-teen years. Oftentimes that’s when people really start to develop more of their personality, or go through phases to figure out how they want to dress, what their interests are, and it’s the start of self discovery. The Fourteenth Goldfish touches base on this topic a little with the changing relationship between Ellie and her old best friend. Children have to be aware that at some point, people may change and your friendships might not last forever – yet you make new friends along the way and this book shows that with Ellie’s newfound friendship with Raj and even the mysterious boy.
I had a little confusion was about Raj, Ellie’s new friend, as he was an alternative boy with facial and ear piercings (and possibly a shaved head), but I have a hard time imagining a 12-year-old with a lip ring. Even if he’s older, if he’s not in high school yet he’s probably not older than 14. I can almost picture a 14-year-old with lip and eyebrow piercings, but not really. I also thought the ending was a little abrupt…MINOR SPOILER…because the solution for part of the issue was to flush the cause of an amazing scientific discovery down the toilet and I couldn’t imagine this happening.
I assume this is the start of what could be an excellent middle-grade series based on a female protagonist interested in science. If you know any young science fans, they should certainly check this out! Even if you’re just a fan of middle-grade fiction, at a little over 200 pages this is easily worth your time.