105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Shark Girl

Smaller Picture

And then... some days are gray days,
vast, unbearable
canyon days, when I can’t take
the frantic buzzing in my arm anymore.
“My life is going to be one long hurt,”
I tell Mel. Sick as it is, I say it:
“Sometimes I wish I died.”

“Time to think about the smaller picture,”
Mel says. “Like getting through one day.
Not your whole life, not forever,
one day.
Sometimes we can only look at one hour,
or one minute.”

Tears crawl into my eyes.
Emptiness makes my throat ache.

“On those bad days, Jane,
hold on. Get through one minute.
Then tell yourself,
I made it through that minute,
I can make it through another.”

So I do as he says,
and I get through
one    more    day.

— from Shark Girl, by Kelly Bingham
Shark GirlOne normal summer day when Jane is fifteen, a shark attacks her in the California waters. She loses a lot of blood, goes into a coma, and almost dies. But she survives — without her arm. She stays in the hospital for a month, regaining her strength and learning to get along as an amputee. Her mother is always by her side, her family sends support, and she receives gifts and letters from people all over the country who’ve seen a video of her tragedy.

But this isn’t the story of a girl who bravely survives and overcomes, at least not at first. She’s angry and bitter. She hates all the flowers and letters, at least most of the letters. She constantly reflects on the day of the accident, wishing that things could have been different — if she hadn’t been in the water at just that moment. Through her ordeal she finds good in a little boy she meets at the hospital and in her supportive friends and family. She finds strength in herself as she heals and grows.

I loved this book because it felt so real and represented the many different ways that people around you can respond to a difficult situation. Some offer religion, some offer a shoulder to cry on. One friend gets very critical of little things while another takes her through a brutal exercise to prepare for Jane’s first trip out to order coffee.

The story is told through conversations, newspaper articles, letters, and poems. Kelly Bingham was on a live forum at readergirlz yesterday and answered some questions about the book. I wasn’t able to sign on, but was intrigued to learn that Shark Girl was written before the attack on the Hawaiian surfer. In fact, Kelly put the manuscript away for a year feeling that it was inappropriate to submit at the time. I still have some questions for Kelly — I was particularly intrigued by how she captured Jane’s feelings — so maybe she’ll stop by MotherReader for a visit too. In any case, don’t wait to pick up this book. It will astound you.


tanita✿davis said...

Wow -- this does seem really real and raw and I like the form. Is the whole thing in blank verse?

MotherReader said...

A lot of the book is verse, but a lot is also conversations and letters. I really liked the mix of styles since it gave some additional opportunites for different points of view and for storytelling.

Miriam said...

I was resistant to buying this book at first because I thought it sounded like she was capitalizing on Bethany Hamilton's story. I bought it only because reviews were good. I read it with a grudge, so I was surprised by how moved I was by it. I thought Bingham did a wonderful job portraying Jane's physical and emotional pain, as well as her strength. She did an equally strong job showing how such a thing affects family and friends. When I blogged about this book, I was pleased to be able to note that the book had been written prior to Bethany's shart attack and that Bingham actually held off publishing it so as not to be another sort of shark.