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Fish in the Sky

Fish in the Sky

3.0 1
by Fridrik Erlings

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With passion and humor, an Icelandic author tells the coming-of-age tale of a boy navigating life’s changes in all their angst and ecstasy.

Josh Stephenson’s thirteenth year starts with a baffling sequence of events. His estranged father has just sent him a taxidermied falcon for his birthday. His flirty seventeen-year-old girl cousin has moved


With passion and humor, an Icelandic author tells the coming-of-age tale of a boy navigating life’s changes in all their angst and ecstasy.

Josh Stephenson’s thirteenth year starts with a baffling sequence of events. His estranged father has just sent him a taxidermied falcon for his birthday. His flirty seventeen-year-old girl cousin has moved into his house, using his bedroom as a passageway and taking bubble baths in the unlockable bathroom. And now he’s gone AWOL from school to escape the locker-room teasing about certain embarrassing anatomical changes. On top of all that, he’s in love, but wondering if dreams of love can ever come true. Hiding out in his secret hollow in a big rock by the sea, Josh tries to figure out once and for all: is his life being sucked into a black hole, or is this just being thirteen?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Icelandic author Erling's pensive, meandering novel, previously published in 2008 in the U.K., opens on 13-year-old Josh Stephenson's birthday, which marks the beginning of months of internal turmoil and questioning. Josh lives with his overworked mother in Iceland; he yearns for his absent father, a sailor, who sends him a taxidermied falcon, which he and his best friend plan to make the star of their nature magazine. Tormented by his attraction to an older cousin, Gertrude (who has temporarily moved into his mother's house), and following a humiliating school incident, Josh distances himself from friends and family and decides to skip school indefinitely. During his respite, he wanders rugged Iceland, rolling thoughts and ideas over in his mind about the nature of existence and freedom. While Erling (Benjamin Dove) builds a sensitive portrait of teenage transformation with dashes of humor, beautiful observations, and a close look at the chaos that lies below the surface, the story lacks a decisive plot. Heavy use of figurative language and Josh's overly mature voice burden the novel's message about the pain of growing up. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
ALAN Review - Judith A. Hayn
Josh Stephenson is 13, and the world around him seems to be falling apart. He lives with his single mom and yearns for his dad's love, although Dad has a pregnant girlfriend living in the countryside. His 17-year-old cousin Trudy comes to stay and his bedroom is her corridor to the bathroom. Josh's obsession with a lovely classmate and his fear of showering after gym class lead him to fake an excuse for missing school; his adventures on his own adds to the reader's enjoyment and empathy. This is an appealing coming-of-age story that speaks to every teenage guy, plus a wealth of information for the teen girl seeking to understand those mysterious creatures. Erlings is a multi-talented Icelandic artist whose novel, recently translated into English, delineates with humor and poignancy that difficult journey from adolescence to manhood. Highly recommended for anyone 12 and up. Reviewer: Judith A. Hayn
Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
As Josh Stephenson turns thirteen, his life turns upside down. Josh has lived with his single mother, rarely spending time with his father who sails on a commercial sailing vessel. While Josh once cared about his mother's religious faith, he is now tempted to tell her that the Bible she has given him will only make him fall asleep. He recognizes that the silly girls in his class are now very enticing. When his mother's niece comes to live with them in their tiny apartment, he gets his first taste of what it means to be a teenager—its shifting hormones, its independence, and its confusions. Spending time along the seacoast of his Iceland hometown, Josh skips school and avoids his best friend. Peter seems to have the perfect life, and Josh feels he just will not understand these new thoughts and feelings. There are consequences for his actions, and in the end, Josh realizes that nothing is as simple as he thought or as it has seemed. This is a fascinating psychological drama, complex and well written, but there is little action to hold the attention of typical thirteen year olds. So much of the story is inside Josh, but some of the situations will be familiar despite the setting of the author's native Iceland. Still, this is not a novel that will find a wide audience. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
Kirkus Reviews
A turgid observation of pubescent male angst translated from Icelandic by the former Sugercubes guitarist. "My childhood has faded like a bright summer day....Before me is the black forest of my grown-up years...a thick undergrowth that I have to fight through to move onward....Is this being a grown-up? Or is this just being thirteen?" Josh Stephenson is a boy on the cusp of manhood, and his worries are many. Will his distant father's new baby replace Josh? What will happen if his single, working mom finds out that he's been ditching school? How often can he sneak peeks at his 17-year-old cousin Trudy in the bathtub before getting caught? And most importantly, how does he keep the class bully from noticing his impressive new patch of pubic hair in the gym showers? This leisurely paced meditation, full of phrases like, "I'm both the creator and the created; I'm both the matter and the spirit, a fish in the sky and a bird in the ocean," might be better appreciated by former adolescents than by current ones. Nevertheless, while Josh's long-winded philosophical musings are often ponderous, the chapters that chronicle his lust, loneliness and longing are sure to resonate with teens dealing with these universal adolescent issues. (Fiction. 12 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The awkwardness of being a 13-year-old boy is candidly shared by protagonist Josh Stephenson with humor and compassion. Erlings writes with poignancy; Josh's experiences are raw enough to be embarrassing, sweet enough to evoke empathy. There is no American slang and no pop culture, but the emotions the teen feels are universal. He despises school, has his first ejaculation (while browsing National Geogaphic), and has a crush on a girl who doesn't know he's alive. Erlings handles the events beautifully. When Josh's sexy, older cousin moves in, he lusts for her. He watches with longing and horror as she kisses her boyfriend. "They go for each other's mouths like wolves gobbling up a carcass." Some difficult issues come up: divorce, rape, teen abuse, and bullying, but they seem like the author's own memories, not ploys to create plot. Josh struggles to find meaning in the small world he knows. He misses his father, worries about his cousin, and is annoyed by his preachy aunt. When he finds out that his father is having another baby, he wonders what his new half sibling will be like. He takes time to think by playing hooky. When he is finally caught, he admits he needs direction on his journey to freedom, and in the end decides to live with his dad. The target audience for this book is sensitive, intelligent, and postpubescent males who have a self-effacing sense of humor.—Pamela Schembri, Newburgh Enlarged City Schools, NY

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.95(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.98(d)
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Fridrik Erlings is a screenwriter, graphic designer, musician, and author of the YA novel Benjamin Dove. In 1986 he founded the Sugarcubes with Björk before leaving music to pursue writing. He lives in Iceland.
"Fish in the Sky is about the extreme pains and joys of being a teenager, the curious period in our lives that we all experience in more or less the same way regardless of our culture, country, race, or gender. Perhaps it is the one time in our whole lives when we are in fact the most perfect human beings we’ll ever become. The question is: where will we go from there?" — Fridrik Erlings

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Fish in the Sky 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
crayolakym More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Janessa, Age 15 This book was a lot like the movie "Moonrise Kingdom" and was pretty good. Josh just turned thirteen and is starting to think more about life and where he fits. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mom, though he misses his dad a lot and is jealous of his friend Peter, who has a dad and spends a lot of time with him. He is changing a lot and the boys at school are bullying him about it so he stops going, and his teenage girl cousin moves into the room connected to his and has to go through his room to get to the bathroom that she spends a lot of time in. So life for him is just too much sometimes, so he spends most of his time in his secret place in a big rock by the ocean, trying to figure out who he is and if it is normal. "Before I know it, my ears have dragged me to the kitchen door." This was a good book. I think most kids can relate to Josh in many ways, as being a kid can be tough and having your own space is important, but having family that really loves you means the most. *This book was provided in exchange for an honest review*  *You can view the original review at Musing with Crayolakym and San Francisco & Sacramento City Book Review