Ellie Montgomery-Hofstein received the nickname “Splash” at her fifth birthday party when she dressed up in a whale costume and cannonballed into a pool. Ever since then, she’s faced bullies at school and within her own family, holding onto her list of “Fat Girl Rules” to help her cope. The pool is the only place she feels safe enough to take up space. When Ellie’s dad takes her to see a therapist, she starts to understand what it means to defend herself. Ellie and her mom struggle to communicate, and it’s not until her mom takes Ellie to see a doctor about undergoing life-threatening weight loss surgery that Ellie finds her true strength.
Starfish is written in verse, making it a quick but very powerful read. Each poem gives an intimate look into Ellie’s life and true feelings. Her growth and character development are palpable because Ellie’s emotions are effectively presented through the poetry. The themes of body positivity and anti-bullying further the message of the story, especially because the opposite of both runs rampant in adolescence. The book also highlights life in an interfaith household, where Ellie’s father is Jewish and her mother is Christian. Both parents encourage their children to choose which religion they wish to follow, with Ellie adopting elements of both.
Lisa Fipps has written an extremely engaging story that evokes many emotions. This powerful series of poems is a wonderful coming-of-age story, relatable to both adults and youths.
Elizabeth Slotnick works in the technology space but has a growing presence on bookstagram, where she reviews books spanning across all genres. She graduated from the University of Virginia and lives in Seattle, WA.