Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fishtailing by Wendy Phillips

This is the second time I've read this novel and I love it more with each read. Told in verse, Phillips gives us four students', a teacher and a counselor's perspective of what is going on in their lives. Kyle, Miguel, Tricia and Natalie are all students of Mrs. Farr. The students pair up and begin "dating" while Natalie, a new and "hardened" student, turns Tricia (a sweet girl) over to the "dark" side. As Tricia creates her new image, Natalie encourages her to do things Tricia doesn't always feel comfortable with. The novel reaches a climax with a life changing for all four of the students.

If you imagine a fishtail braid, then you can see how the novel got its title. After dividing the hair into two pieces, one small piece from each side gets moved to the other side until all of the hair is beautifully intertwined. The lives of Kyle, Miguel, Tricia and Natalie do just that. Mrs. Farr, the teacher, and the counselor are the bookends to these students. I wanted to wring the neck of Mrs. Farr for her distant and seemingly aloof attitude about what was going on with her students. She didn't talk to them about their real lives and it was a constant irritation as I read. But, not a bad one. She was a hard edge in this gritty and incredibly realistic plot.

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