Summary: 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.
Fishkill Carmel is a tough-as-nails heroine with a desperate secret. Christine Farina, better known as Duck-Duck, is the quirky idealist who sees through the tough façade and appoints herself Fishkill’s new best friend. What follows is a tale full of poignant moments of friendship, exploring everything from the stirrings of sexual attraction between the two girls, to the nuances of girl bullying, to the ways the system fails those without resources. What I loved most about this book is that it treats Fishkill’s struggles with middle school social life with the same gravity it treats her family situation – only fitting, as both are integral parts of a middle schooler’s life. Fishkill’s inimitable voice – all hardness yearning for softness – comes through from page one, and readers will root for her to find the family she so needs. Just as in the real world, no one gets off easy, and no character is all good or all bad. Prepare to have your heart broken and put back together again by this funny, sad, immersive, and excellent book.
BEING FISHKILL is out now.