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Fiction Ages 12+
Pages: 200
Themes: teen issues, peer pressure, coming of age
Publisher: Coteau Books
Pub Date: 01/09/2010
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Teen violence, bullying and the burning quest to fit in are presented in the poems of four unforgettable high school students: Natalie, Kyle, Tricia, Miguel. Their stories unfold in this explosive new book told in free verse. A story of teen angst like no other, it is based on fictional characters but is rooted in the realities of the teen experience.

When Natalie moves to a new high school she befriends three unwitting victims into her spider-web of manipulations, lies and deceit. Through the poetry and assignments of an English class we glimpse the world of the four teens. Natalie, whose alcoholic parents, years of neglect and ultimate rape by her father's friend has shaped her into a cruel and manipulative teen; Tricia, dealing with her blended family, is drawn into Natalies' forbidden world of partying and rebellion; Kyle, a would-be musician is in love with Tricia and Miguel who lusts for Natalie while hiding the secrets of his family.

The story weaves us through their poetry, their lives and culminates at a party where the four lives fishtail out of control. English class will never be the same.

What If? Magazine - April 1, 2011
"While the stories are ordinary enough, they become far more intriguing as the reader is forced to discover them in the intricate poems written by the four teenagers...An original read...[and] undeniably worth the extra energy it takes when compared to the average teen novel."
Library Media Connection - March 1, 2011
"The novel leaves readers gripping their seats and begging for more...Reluctant readers will like the quick flow of the novel, and poetry lovers will enjoy the verse form. Students will be finishing the book the day they begin. Recommended."
VOYA - February 1, 2011
"The poetry is touching, painful, and jarring as Phillips presents [the characters'] stories through their hesitations, hopes, pains, and fears. The plot constantly twists and turns, keeping the reader guessing what will happen next."
Booklist - October 15, 2010
"The free-verse voices are all nicely handled; the teens are engaging…characters; and Natalie's machinations are compelling."
Kirkus Reviews - October 15, 2010
"Phillips adeptly spins complex, provocative, sharp-imaged lines of poetry in this first novel that is mostly told by the four main characters…Enough razor blades, lust, jealousy and revenge to keep readers breathlessly hooked until the very end."
Resource Links - October 1, 2010
"An eloquent story with an intriguing format...This book is recommended for literature study groups, poetry lovers, and for the study of relationships between friends and among parents and children."
Canadian Children's Book News - July 1, 2010
"The poems are excellent and the author beautifully captures the complex emotions of the teens...Fast paced, and often heartbreaking, this novel offers the reader much to discuss and think about long after reading."
CM Magazine - June 4, 2010
"The beauty of the free verse style is that readers are never overwhelmed with narrative description or ongoing dialogue...It works beautifully and gives a refreshing new perspective about the cruel games sometimes played in high schools and the resulting teenage angst, despair and emotional trauma. Fishtailing is a novel worth having in any collection – for the poignant characterization, for the gripping plot, for the ingenuity of the writing. Highly Recommended."

Awards

Governor General's Literary Award - Children's Text  | 2010 | Winner
PSLA Top Forty  | 2010 | Commended
CCBC Best Books  | 2011 | Commended
Stellar Award nominee  | 2013 | Short-listed

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