Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shape of Water

As I have explained many times on this blog, books get the thumbs up from me for many reasons, but the single most reason they get a thumbs down is if I don't feel they will actually appeal to the audience they are meant for. A book can be wonderfully written and really speak to me, but if I don't think it's going to speak to a 6 year old or a 14 year old, it's not great. Unfortunately, this is how I feel about The Shape of Water. A beautifully written book, but I cannot imagine a teenager loving it. Being part of the young adult genre, this is SO important and in my opinion, the author did not quite get there, leaving me disappointed.

The Shape of Water is written by Anne Spollen and focuses it's plot on Magda, a girl trying to survive in her world of anxiety and loneliness after her mother has passed away. She feels as if she is trapped within herself, unable to feel anything but sadness, unable to take away the fog she constantly walks through. Magda slowly begins to open up to herself, through the outlet of arson. She starts fires in the woods and marshes near her home, perhaps not meaning harm, but healing for herself instead.

Throughout the story, the reader is going to be unsure of whether Magda is simply a broken girl, hurt and devastated from her mother's death, or whether she is truly mad. She is constantly imagining fish tormenting her, forcing her to deal with family secrets and ultimately resulting in these fires that she feels are theraputic. Are the fish a metaphor for something deeper or is Magda losing her mind? I honestly don't know.

Something must be said for Spollen's writing, as it truly is beautiful. It flows well and leads to imagery and magic in the reader's mind that many authors cannot quite accomplish. However, I cannot see many teens reading past page 10, unless this is being used for an English class. It's too heavy, to thick to see the real characterization or plot points. Almost too much imagery, too much "falseness." We can't tell what is real and what's not. Maybe that was Spollen's simply have us questioning Magda's mental state, but I really felt the novel focused on that aspect when it should have had us exploring the ideas of loss and loneliness instead. Adults may love it...teens, probably not so much.

Just eh.

If you're interested in learning more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.


Abby said...

*nods* That was my problem, too. I think there could be an audience for this one, but it would be a very certain "type" of teen that would get into it. (I think I probably would have loved it when I was about 14... but I don't know if my friends would have...)

Charlotte said...

It didn't work for me, either. It wasn't just all the stuff going on in the character's mind, but that the writer seemed to keep throwing new bits of plot in, that weren't essential...I did, however, enjoy the imaginary fish! And the writing is lovely.

Aiof Murphy said...

Wow, I absolutely loved this one, but I am 41 years old. I found the writing lyrical, the girl sympathetic, and the fish funny. I read it twice over the summer.

Maybe it's not YA? Does all lit with a teen character have to be YA? Just thoughts.

Amanda said...

Aiof Murphy,

I'm really glad you liked it! I'm calling it YA, because that's what the books publisher and author have referred to it as, meaning that the author did mean for it to be for a young adult audience. No, not all books with child characters are YA or children's books...The Secret Life of Bees, Me & Emma, and many others come to mind that are definitely adult books. This one though, directly in the author's bio states it is a book for teens.

Aiof Murphy said...

Oh, I know how it's marketed -- what I meant was maybe it would have been better off in general fiction, that's all. It has a certain richness to it that teens might not appreciate (I understand that), and I thought it might be better off had it been brought out NOT as a book for teens, but just as a story for anyone/everyone :)