Bluefish by Pat Schmatz

Novel: Bluefish

Author: Pat Schmatz

Target Audience: 12 and up

Genre: Realistic fiction

Publication Year: 2011

Setting: Small town in Illinois; contemporary

A Favorite Quote: “I’m supposed to teach you how to take the standardized reading tests so you won’t be the child left behind, but because I’m subversive‚ĶI’m actually going to try to teach you a passion for the written word.”

My One Sentence Summary: Travis is miserable after he and his grandpa move, but an eccentric teacher and an even more eccentric couple of classmates soon start to change his perceptions–not only of his new community, but of himself.

What I loved about this book: This book is witty, gritty, and smart. I loved the frequent allusions to literature and film. Both main characters (Travis and his awesome new classmate Velveeta) have suffered recent losses and difficult family situations, and the story is incredibly honest as it explores issues related to learning disability, alcoholism, and socioeconomic status.

Major themes: Coping with loss; low self-esteem; kindness and decency in adversity; bullying and friendships; forgiveness

Who should read this book: Bluefish explores mature themes with dignity and honesty. Best for readers who appreciate realistic stories and do not shy away from grief or adversity.