Thursday, October 4, 2007

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

It’s a normal hot summer day and Jane is headed out to the beach along with her family. She wants to go in for a swim, her brother is too busy flirting with some girl, so she decides to go in the water by herself. Then the unthinkable happens, Jane gets attacked by a shark. She’s saved by her brother and taken to shore, but not before she loses her arm.

When Jane wakes up from her coma she’s in the hospital minus an arm. Thanks to some guy with a video camera, her attack has been broadcast six ways since Sunday on every local and national news network. Her room is filled with an onslaught of flowers and letters from people she doesn’t know saying how brave she is, how she’s a hero, how she inspires them.

Dear Jane:

My Uncle/Aunt/Brother-in-Law’s Friend Had Their Leg/Foot/Toe/Finger or Hand Amputated Because of Diabetes/Frostbite/Circulation Problems/War/Job Injury, But You’d Never Know It, Because They Are So Funny/Athletic/Good-Natured/Spiritual/Successful/At Ease with Themselves/Happy.

If I have to listen to one more story,

I will scream.”

The one thing she knows for sure is that she doesn’t feel is brave and she is not a hero. She’s in pain, she’s depressed, and she’s completely pissed off. Why did this have to happen to her? Why do these people feel compelled to tell her to buck up it’ll get better when it very well might not? What will it be like when she has to go back to school and feel everyone’s eyes on her?

Shark Girl is composed of news reports, letters, emails, and Jane’s diary. It is unflinchingly honest. I had a lump in my throat the entire book. I was constantly on the edge of completely losing it and crying, which incidentally, I did by the end of the book. Jane’s voice, her anger, her understanding of what people are thinking when they look at her – because it’s how she used to look at people like her – couldn’t be more spot on.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that there wasn’t an amputee that showed up to give Life Altering Insight and Lessons. Sure, there was Justin, the young kid who lost a leg and was at the hospital at the same time. And yes, he did help her recover mentally. But that made sense to me. What I mean is there aren’t any convenient characters, like the new teacher at school who just happens to also be missing an arm but nevertheless gets along just fine without it. Or perhaps an old codger, who is of course, missing both of his legs or half his face (the point is he's missing something) and who sits all day at the park where Jane just happens to start hanging out. Those type of characters always ring false to me.

I couldn’t help but think how I would act if I lost a limb. I certainly wouldn’t feel like an inspiration to people everywhere (those letters that people wrote her…what the hell were they thinking?). I would be hysterically angry and depressed. But I’d like to think I’d eventually recover just like Jane.

This is definitely in my top 10 favorite books published in 2007.

An Interview with the author on Cynsations:

1 comment:

joanna said...

You used "old codger" in a sentence. That made my day! :)