Bluefish by Pat Schmatz is an understated contemporary novel. I haven’t actually seen any reviews for it so far, so it seems very under the radar, or at least it did until I checked goodreads and realized it doesn’t come out until September 13. However, we still see advance reviews for most books, and I really do think Bluefish is going to be one of those that will be under the radar.
Travis is new in town. You see, he and his alcoholic grandfather move from their old home after Travis’s dog Rosco disappears (but let’s be real, if you have half a brain you know the deal with Rosco). At his new school, he crosses paths with Velveeta, the perennial charmer with secrets of her own, and Bradley, a pint-sized genius. Travis is illiterate and Bluefish mostly centers around his learning to read, but on a broader level, learning to trust.
Pat Schmatz’s new novel is a very quick read. It took about about 2.5 hours to get through. It clocks in at 240 pages. However it’s also compulsively readable. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Travis and his friends. It’s highly emotional too and when I am reading an emotionally driven read, the pages turn of their own accord, it seems. I’m not going to lie, I teared up whenever Rosco was mentioned. I also teared up because there are two books mentioned within - Haunt Fox by Jim Kjelgaard and The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. And whenever The Book Thief was mentioned, my chest would tighten with the memories of reading it.
If I could say one thing about Bluefish I would say that it is a quiet book. And I have said this about plenty of books, but it’s never overt. It doesn’t shout it’s issues and problems from the rooftops. Instead things gently unfold and progress naturally. I felt that I forged a deeper connection with the characters because they felt honest and real. I could understand why Travis was so apprehensive about learning to read. I could see he was stubborn not because he hated books, but because he hated being told that he could do it, he just needed to try which implies that he isn’t trying at all which is definitely not the case.
I love that the relationship between Travis and Velveeta isn’t exactly a love relationship, but instead a simple friendship that blossoms out of curiosity. We don’t get any kissing scenes. We just get two kids who get to know each other more and may end up with a crush at some point. It’s nice that a romance wasn’t forced right in.
I enjoyed Bluefish by Pat Schmatz far more than I expected to. It sort of crept up on me with it’s quietness and really resonated with me emotionally. I recommend this if you are tired of shout-y books and want to read away the quiet fall afternoon.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.