Shark Girl. By Kelly Bingham. 3 CDs 3:06 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781469274997. $54.97.
Gr 6–10— In her hometown of Santa Clarita, California, 15-year-old Jane Arrowood's life changes in just a few moments when a shark attacks her. Near death, she's rescued by her older brother and spends months in the hospital—first in a coma and then undergoing painful operations and therapy to deal with the amputation of her drawing arm. Peppered with letters, text messages, and newspaper clippings, this first person account offers themes of fate and rebirth as Jane, a talented artist, strives toward recovery and self discovery. The callous nature of social media is a subtext, as the shark attack was filmed by a beachgoer and went viral on the Internet and in newscasts. A young amputee helps Jane as she battles doubts and depression. Listeners will not likely recognize that this is a novel in verse because Kate Reinders's reading does not reflect the poetic structure of the text; instead, it comes across as a stream of consciousness. Reinders's vocal dynamics guide listeners easily in the frequent transition between spoken word and thought. Though it has obvious similarities to Bethany Hamilton's nonfiction memoir, Soul Surfer (Paw Prints, 2008), Bringham's novel (Candlewick, 2007) is bursting with raw emotion and is a powerful story in its own right. Short and affecting, this would be a great choice for a book discussion group.
Formerly Shark Girl. By Kelly Bingham. 5 CDs. 5:06 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781468274911. $54.97.
Gr 6–10— It's been a year since the shark attack that cost Jane Arrowood her right arm. Now, as she returns to school with her new prosthesis, she adds the more mundane problems of a high school senior to her recovery regimen. While suffering frequent and debilitating nerve pain, she must find a date for the prom, boost her grades, and struggle with the fact that her mother may be secretly dating. Her biggest dilemma is choosing a school. She had always planned to go to art school, but her drawing hand was lost in the shark attack, and her artistic endeavors with her left hand have not measured up. The alternative is to enroll in nursing school to learn a profession for which she has a great deal of admiration since her accident. A new boyfriend adds another wrinkle to an increasingly complicated life, as does the possibility of another surgery. Like Shark Girl (2007), this sequel (2013, both Candlewick) is told in present tense verse, though listeners will not likely notice the pattern of poetry. Instead, they will hear the poems as very short, titled chapters. Kate Reinders turns in an excellent characterization of Jane, using inflection to highlight the difference between Jane's utterances and her frequent unspoken thoughts. Her youthful voice is well-suited for the part. Listeners who made a connection with Jane in Shark Girl will enjoy the sequel, but it lacks the raw simplicity and emotional punch of the first book.