About the Book

Title: Goldfish (Girl Out of Water #1)
Published: 2016
Series: Girl Out of Water
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: A-Dory-able
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: Teenspeak, UK Edition
Bonus Factors: Feisty British Teen Heroine, Swimming, Happily Divorced Parents
Relationship Status: Slumber Party Pals

Cover Story: A-Dory-able

Is this not the most precious cover ever?!? Although I regret to inform that this book isn’t, in fact, about a whimsical school of little goldfishes. But it does sort of feature a famous fish—at least on the back of my review copy—through her memorable motto.

It’s also leagues* better than the U.K. version, in both cover and title. 

*Because, y’know, the sea. I LIKE A THEME.

The Deal:

Louise Brown has dreamed of going to the Olympics for competitive swimming for most of her fifteen years. But when the qualifying trials come around, Lou tanks it (pun totally intended), while her best—and only—friend earns a spot at swim training camp. Friendless and directionless, Lou ends up agreeing to coach three popular boys for a TV talent show… in synchronized swimming.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

Lou is immensely funny and lovable, but I’m giving her a Big Sister charm because I’m an old lady and she’s really young, as one character points out repeatedly and humorously. I’m so proud of how Lou ultimately perseveres after her Plan A doesn’t work out, esp. in changing course when she had been so singularly focused on a goal.

But I would like to impart my sagely wisdom to change her perception of tampons being mortifying. I know; they are when you’re fifteen, but menstruation happens! Brandish those tampons with pride! (OK, maybe too far the other way. But still nothing to be ashamed of!)

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

The boys that Lou trains are, of course, all entirely gorgeous. While his teammates are initially surly and standoffish, Gabriel is much more jovial and good-natured. But Lou encounters an issue that I will likely never experience**, in being significantly taller than Gabriel; he, however, is completely unfazed by the height difference. And that confidence makes him even hotter—although him and Lou are strictly cute together.

**Unless Peter Dinklage wants to leave his family for me. In which case: Peter, we mustn’t.

Talky Talk: Teenspeak, UK Edition

Lou’s colorful personality comes across loud and clear in her narration that’s peppered with abbrevs, texts, and emails—all with decidedly British flair. (As a North American, should I have known that ‘sozzle’ meant ‘sorry’? Because sozzle, I didn’t, and sozzle, now I want to obnoxiously use it all the time. (Is it too late now to say sozzle? OK, I’ll stop.) I also took way too long to realize that Weez is short for Louise, and not just, like, some unfamiliar interjection.

As with any story with a healthy dose of hijinks, the plot does require some suspension of disbelief. But the characterization is much more grounded, aside from a few one-dimensional villains.

One minor observation that I couldn’t not notice was the abundance of comma splices in the writing. They didn’t detract from my reading experience, but the grammar nerd in me kept mentally flagging them anyway.

Bonus Factor: Feisty British Teen Heroine

Lou Brown is def. cut from the same awkward and hilarious cloth as Georgia Nicolson and my girl Harriet Manners. (Actually, is there any way this trio can be BFFs in the same literary shared universe? PLEASE AND THANKS.)

Bonus Factor: Swimming

A man swimming underwater in lane in a pool

Before the time trials, Lou lived, ate, and breathed swimming. Now she has to adapt to a new reality, in which teachers no longer cut her any slack for schoolwork, and she has to find something to occupy the many hours that were once dedicated to swimming. Still, a lifelong love is hard to quash, and Lou continues to find comfort and solace at the pool.

As for Lou’s new coaching gig, the cool thing about the boys’ synchronized swimming endeavor is that it’s not the joke. Hooray for positive masculinity!

Bonus Factor: Happily Divorced Parents

Lou’s parents have long since divorced, but they remain cordial co-parents—which they kind of have to be, since her dad moved back into the house after he got laid off, and her mom has dates lined up on the regular. And the two of them make a great team in both parenting and teasing their kids.

Casting Call:

I’ll be real with y’all: fantasy casting for a 5’10” English/quarter-Indonesian fifteen-year-old is a tall task (pun intended again).

Relationship Status: Slumber Party Pals

My time with this book was fun, silly, and over far too soon. But I hear it’s up for another slumber party next year!? Just name the date, and my sleeping bag and I will be there.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Feiwel and Friends. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Goldfish is available now.

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.