GOLDFISH Out of Water–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a terrifyingly funny contemporary YA story from Nat Luurtsema. GOLDFISH is a humorous sports romance, in a way, about a British girl whose championship dreams are busted and how she gets her life back together in the void.

GoldfishAbout the book:
Lou Brown is one of the fastest swimmers in the county. She’s not boasting, she really is. So things are looking pretty rosy the day of the Olympic time-trials. With her best mate Hannah by her side, Lou lines up by the edge of the pool, snaps her goggles on and bends into her dive…

Everything rests on this race. It’s Lou’s thing.

… or it was. She comes dead last and to top it all off Hannah sails through leaving a totally broken Lou behind.

Starting again is never easy, particularly when you’re the odd-one out in a family of insanely beautiful people and a school full of social groups way too intimidating to join. Where do you go from here? Finding a new thing turns out to be the biggest challenge Lou’s ever faced and opens up a whole new world of underwater somersaults, crazy talent shows, bitchy girls and a great big load of awkward boy chat.

Lou Brown guides us through the utter humiliation of failure with honesty, sass and a keen sense of the ridiculous. This girl will not be beaten.

My Review:
I woke my hubs, twice, reading this book in bed and laughing uncontrollably.

Louise is a 15 y/o champion swimmer, dubbed “Goldfish” by her family for taking home so many gold medals, but she fails spectacularly at the youth time trials and doesn’t get accepted the High Performance Training Center. Hannah, her BFF, does get accepted. Lou falls into a funk. Without swimming and without Hannah, Lou has no friends and no activities. She’s lanky and odd, not perky and cute like her elder sister, Laverne. Lou and Lav–both short names for the toilet–part of the understated and charming British humor that kept me constantly sniggering.

Lou has few goals for her time in school: learn, make friends, get by. But she struggles to even do these things. She has too much time on her hands and spends hours ruminating over the lack of swimming in her life. One night she sneaks into the pool and she’s approached by three older boys who observe her screwing around in the water. They are a dance group and want to be on Britain’s Hidden Talent but they need a new hook, as they’ve been refused a tryout; too many boy dance teams, it seems.

They, Pete, Roman and Gabe, think Lou can teach them to perform a dance routine underwater–not synchroswim exactly–and it’s a new mission for Lou. Something to strive for. Enter inexplicable and enormously entertaining comedies of errors. Pratfalls abound. Whatever can go wrong, will. And I laughed so hard! The odd-ball shenanigans caught me just right, and I really had no defense against Lou’s dead-pan delivery.

So this summer I stopped swimming and met our postman. And I finally got all that crying done that I’ve been meaning to do for ages, so that’s good, isn’t it? Plus I really explored the concept of Lying in Bed All Day Feeling Nothing but Despair. A summer lived right to the edges.

My hair doesn’t grow down; it goes out, like Hannah’s. We don’t look like the princess in a fairy tale. We look like the enchanted vines that covered her castle for a hundred years.

Laverne is sixteen, with glossy black hair, actual boobs, and a tattoo that Mom and Dad don’t know about.
Nature made her and then, a year later, took the same ingredients and made me. It’s baffling. Good thing they didn’t have a third child; it would probably have a face like a knee.

(Note: I barely avoided soiling myself while reading this book… #WeakBladder #TooMuchLaughing)

So, yeah, plot. There’s a power dynamic with Lou’s former coach, and mean girls, and general isolation, and unexpected friendships, and a touch of romance, and a dramatic rescue for a confused athlete. It’s really a sweet, funny story that manages to appear light and breezy while also having a strong story line and a wellspring of emotion. Lou needs to start over from a pretty harsh setback. I’m not sure why she can’t simply swim with her school’s team, but part of that stems from callous coaching and mean girls. I can’t truly believe she was so unwelcome, but that’s the story and the reminders of her bullying are swift and sharp as dagger wounds.

The quest for fame is brutal, and captivating. Lou is engaging. Her self-deprecation is absolutely cutting, and shockingly humorous. Her family is odd and quirky and endearing. They do what’s right even when it’s the opposite of convenient. The boys, who are far too cool for Lou, end up being alright guys and great friends. The budding romance is tender and sweet and unfolds in the final pages, but was deftly foreshadowed.

Interested? You can find GOLDFISH on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Nat Luurtsema is a BAFTA-nominated screenwriter, a BAFTA Rocliffe alumni, stand-up comic, author, actor and a third of sketch group Jigsaw.

She has just finished directing WYRDOES, a comedy feminist ‘Macbeth’, with backing from Film London, Film4 and the British Arts Council. It will be a part of the Shakespeare Lives worldwide tour, which will play to an audience of 500 million.

Nat plays Tallulah Bankhead in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, directed by Stephen Frears.

Nat is developing two feature films and adapting the novel Spilt Milk Black Coffee by Helen Cross, for Mighty Atom Entertainment.

Nat’s latest book is a Young Adult novel – GIRL OUT OF WATER – to be published June 2016 in the UK, Germany, France and Italy. It will simultaneously publish as GOLDFISH in USA.

You can catch up to Nat online on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

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