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Being Fishkill (Hardcover)
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Caramel Fishkill was born in the back of a moving car and named after a sign on the side of the highway. She lives in a trailer with her neglectful alcoholic mother and abusive grandfather, but must fend for herself when her grandfather dies and her mother disappears. She changes her name to Fishkill Caramel and returns to school with a tough new exterior, but she doesn’t bargain on meeting eccentric Duck-Duck Farina and joining her gang, the GR. Duck-Duck and her mother, Molly, adopt Fishkill into their family and her walls start to come down, only for the reappearance of her mother to destroy the fragile life that she’s started to build for herself. This is a hard book to read, but Lehrer handles the intense themes well and makes it worth the heartache by letting us into Fishkill’s life. 14+— From Kinsey's Picks
Fishkill Carmel fends for herself, with her fists if need be — until a thwarted lunch theft introduces her to strange, sunny Duck-Duck and a chance for a new start.
Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it. This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.
About the Author
Ruth Lehrer is a poet, author, and American Sign Language interpreter. She lives in the woods of western Massachusetts.
A desperately sad story of profound abuse is softened somewhat by the highly intelligent Duck-Duck and her loving mother. But neither love nor grief is linear. Fishkill's guilt, anger, and abandonment only intensify as the story unfolds, leaving her desperate and unsure where to turn...Abuse is eclipsed by love in this moving novel.
Lehrer pulls at heartstrings in her thought-provoking debut...a complex and well-plotted work.
In Lehrer’s engrossing first novel, 12-year-old Carmel Fishkill (named after a highway exit sign her mother, Keely, glimpsed while giving birth in the back seat of a car) decides that starting seventh grade in a new school is an opportunity to toughen up her image...The plot, as well as Duck-Duck and Fishkill’s friendship, twists and turns as Keely reappears and disappears, until a tragic development changes the entire tone of the book, providing a bittersweet resolution.
Lehrer’s debut is well written and touches upon tough subjects such as bullying, abuse, and teen pregnancy in a lyrical but age-appropriate way. Fishkill lives a hard life, but the book speaks to how schools and institutions handle students in poverty. A great purchase for public libraries.
—School Library Journal
The deep sadness undergirding this story is held in check, rhetorically speaking, by Fishkill’s matter-of-fact, survivalist perspective and a fast-moving plot...Fans of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s rescue dramas are the audience for this.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
In the year’s most heartwarming, heartbreaking teen novel, Carmel Fishkill – who’s been abused for years – decides to reinvent herself and change her name to Fishkill Carmel. After she finally finds some solace, her unstable mother reappears.
Poet Lehrer’s YA debut is a beautifully written and authentic look at rural poverty, and a great choice for fans of Kody Keplinger’s Run and Sarah Nicole Lemon’s Done Dirt Cheap.
—B&N Teen Blog