Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

cover image

Candlewick Press 2010. ISBN 9780763646271.
(Ages 12+) This verse novel tells the story of blossoming artist, Jane Arrowood, snatched from the jaws of a shark by her brother, while out swimming with her family. She loses her arm and faces the potential loss of friends, her talent for drawing and painting and her sense of belonging. Told in the first person, Kelly Bingham captures a strong and absorbing voice.
After a long convalescence, cared for by a loving mother and challenging brother, Jane faces her return to school. The journey to some sort of normality is long and difficult and she realises that her life is changed forever. Frustrated, she wants life to be as it was, but, gradually she comes to an understanding of what life now means - she is the one who needs to face the reality and adjust, accepting the love and support of friends and family members, even if they don't always respond as she would hope. She discovers that Max, the school heart-throb may even be interested in her as a person; herself as she is now!
Jane finds comfort in Justin's friendship, a young boy she meets in hospital who has lost his leg. Her confidence is boosted by his pragmatic acceptance of life's disappointments.
He friends respond to her in different ways - as is only natural - but she comes to understand the pressures they place on themselves, too, in confronting her accident.
She learns to understand the responses of her family, though often exasperating.
Her talent for drawing is not lost as she grows in determination and courage. She comes to accept the fact that family photos now reveal a new Jane, but not any less of a person.
Though somewhat long, and at times repetitive, Shark Girl reveals a young girl's journey through life after a tragic accident.
The choice of verse narration works well as her inner thoughts are well explored. The narration is interrupted at times with news media articles, and letters from readers of these, but this clever device widens the interest level of Jane's story.
The language is realistic and often evocative, and, despite its length and reiteration of responses, this novel is very readable.
Julie Wells