Unable to face a devastating secret, 15-year-old Tess tries unsuccessfully to run away to London.
Her ordinary family life in Manchester with two loving parents is upended when she sees a blog entry on her actor father’s computer that reveals not only that she was conceived by a sperm donor, but that Jack never wanted her. She tries to tell her only real friend, Isabel, but can’t. Nor can she admit to her parents that she knows they’ve been lying to her all of her life. After a disastrous attempt to deliver her single line in a local theatrical production of Peter Pan to Jack, who’s playing Capt. Hook, Tess falls into an unbreakable silence, unable to release the “noiseless thunder” of her conflicting emotions. Stream-of-consciousness narration revealing Tess’ internal struggle gives way to silent dialogue with a goldfish-shaped flashlight in her pocket. “Mr. Goldfish” becomes her confidant and anchor as she tries to pinpoint signs of Jack’s unfatherly behavior, “swimming” through the air in her imagination and providing enthusiastic commentary. Tess, a big—some might say fat—white girl, invites readers into her alienation with a sort of savage intimacy. Pitcher delivers a story of betrayal and miscues among family and friends with a realistic blend of humor and gravity as Tess slides toward mental instability.
An unflinchingly honest portrayal of anguish. (Fiction. 12-17)