Saturday, August 30, 2014
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The last thing Ellie needs right now is a 13 year old grandfather, but that is what she gets. It seems grandpa, Dr. Melvin Sagarsky, 76 and with 2 PhDs to his credit, has discovered the secret to reverse aging thanks to a rare jellyfish. Now he is stuck in middle school with Ellie and is being forced to read The Catcher in the Rye ("All this Holden kid does is whine. He should just get a job").
So imagine how Dr. 2PhDs middle schooler Melvin Sagarsky feels when a goth kid named Raj calls him a quack while riding the school bus. It seems that, despite his many published articles, grandpa's lifetime of research trying to find the secret to the fountain of youth isn't widely admired by the rest of the scientific community, even if he does have a fan club in Finland.
Now imagine Ellie's surprise when Raj, who, it turns out, is very much into science, shows up at her house, newly hired as Melvin's lab assistant. Their goal: to break into the lab where Melvin used to work and steal the rare jellyfish that helped him reverse the aging process. Natually, Ellie wants in.
Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong!
You've probably already figured out that this book is pretty funny. And it is, but at its heart is a rather serious question - what happens if Melvin's discovery works out and people stop aging, what does that do to the cycle of life?
The Fourteenth Goldfish is a character/action driven coming of age novel fueled by science and I really enjoyed reading it. I liked watching Ellie grow and change, and seeing how she coped with everything going on around her. It was particularly nice to read about a girl who learns a lot about science and the for-better-or-worse life-changing work of people like Galileo, Issac Newton, Robert Oppenheimer and Jonas Salk from her grandfather. It's through her many conversations with Melvin that Ellie discovers she also has a real interest in science. And a real interest in the ethical questions scientific discoveries can generate. Oddly enough, despite regressing to a snarky 13 year old while still remaining as curmudgeony as ever, even Melvin grows as a character for the same reasons.
It was also nice to read a book that has parents that get along after divorce and a father who is still welcomed in his daughter's home. And it was nice to see an ex-husband who got along with his wife's new, serious boyfriend. Perhaps that is why Ellie was able to handle her own age appropriate problems so well. For example, she and Brianna may have drifted into different interests, but they remained friends.
The Fourteenth Goldfish is a fun, quirky easy to read novel about life, friendship, science and possibility. Definitely not a novel to miss.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an E-ARC received from NetGalley