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Shape of Water
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Shape of Water

4.8 6
by Anne Spollen

--Kirkus (starred review)

"I had come to know silence well during those months after my mother died. When you sit in silence long enough, you learn that silence has a motion. It glides over you without shape or form, but with weight, exactly like water."

Magda's mother always said the world was full of strange and


--Kirkus (starred review)

"I had come to know silence well during those months after my mother died. When you sit in silence long enough, you learn that silence has a motion. It glides over you without shape or form, but with weight, exactly like water."

Magda's mother always said the world was full of strange and beautiful secrets only the two of them could see. But now she's gone and Magda's world is flooded with anxiety and loneliness—and maybe, madness. As an imaginary family of bickering fish begins to torment her, Magda's only outlet is starting beautiful but destructive fires in the marshes near her house.

The Shape of Water is a darkly lyrical and surprising tapestry of the mundane and the surreal, in which Magda begins to untangle her family's secrets and search for a stable place in the world.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up- As 15-year-old Magdalena tries to cope with her mother's suicide, reality and fantasy clash until she accepts the truth of what really happened. The beach was their favorite place, and they often swam and explored together. Now, the girl's companions are a family of fish that live in her imagination. At first this device is somewhat off-putting, but as the pain surrounding her loss becomes apparent, it becomes more acceptable. Her father tries to help her recover from the trauma she has suffered even while he must also adjust to his own grief. Hannah, her aunt, helps with practical things at home. She seems like a strong, focused woman but her background unfolds in surprising ways. Magda's father eventually marries a widow who tries to deny the troubles of her teenage son until he winds up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. Gradually, Magda begins to come to terms with reality, and, as she does, the fish companions begin to disappear. Though at times confusing, this story is riveting, and Spollen's incredibly descriptive prose creates images as clear and alive as those of a master painter. It demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit and would be a fine companion to Alice Hoffman's Indigo (Scholastic, 2002), a brief tale of loss that also uses water as a healing device.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ

Kirkus Reviews
Magdalena, 15, is drifting into mental illness, letting go of the scaffolding of daily life and grieving for a mother lost to her own madness. At once arrogant and bereft, Magdalena loses her one friend and distances herself from her worried father and aunt. Her identity, even her name-she answers to Lena, Meggie, Maggie, Magda-is shifting, tenuous. From her decaying Staten Island home, drawn to the ocean she once explored with her mother, Magdalena surrenders to hallucinations that distract her from what she calls "the standard"-the banal routines, imperfections, obligations of ordinary life. Yet she senses that though lacking magic, that standard holds survival and healing. Encounters with other wandering souls help, but she still has a long, dangerous swim back to shore. Spollen interweaves elemental, evocative images of what is formless and boundless-water, air, grief, death-with what is solid and limited-earth, objects, human love and forgiveness. This enchanting novel starts quietly, draws the reader in and weaves a seductive spell that holds until the last page. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

North Star Editions
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Anne Spollen is the mother of three children. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals and have been nominated for Pushcart prizes. The Shape of Water is her first novel for teenagers. It began as a short story in Orchid: a Literary Review. She lives in New York.

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Shape of Water 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
SakkaOnna More than 1 year ago
Some of the most amazing imagery I've ever run across in anything; it had me hooked from the first paragraph. Ms. Spollen takes concepts I was only vaguely aware of before(different qualities of silence, the subtleties of water and atmosphere) and has painted them so vividly that, after reading the book, I found myself looking at things in entirely new ways. It felt like growing up speaking a language with words for only "light" and "dark", and then having someone introduce the colors to me. The actual plot is a fairly simple one, and it feels almost incidental; the real story is the heroine (Magda, Maggie, Lena, Magdalena; depends on who's talking to her) learning how to deal with her far-from-normal (??) mind, and how to live in a normal world in spite of herself.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Magda's life is slowly bursting into flames, as it changes for the worst. The ones most important to her are departing from her life. First it's her mother who passes away. Then it's her best friend, Julia, who moves away, and then her father is slowly becoming disconnected as he tries to move on. For Magda it is just too soon, but her father has quickly found someone else to fill her mother's shoes. The only thing Magda finds solace in is by setting fires in the woods right next to her home. This action is the introduction for the reader to decide whether Magda has become unstable. We must further question her sanity as the appearances of two fish, who converse in Magda's head, are made throughout the story. Can Magda overcome all of these tragedies, find her identity, and discover the secrets she's been looking for? Or will it all just push her over the edge? Right off the bat, THE SHAPE OF WATER looks like your typical novel where the main character is hit with numerous tragedies and must face her emotions and the future. However, Anne Spollen weaves an intricate and poetic novel that flows right from the very first word to the very last. Magda is a character full of many levels, and as the story progresses the reader is able to understand her actions and her thoughts. What seems crazy at first becomes enticingly beautiful in the end. THE SHAPE OF WATER is a novel full of thought and sorrow that will take the reader on a journey that will leave a lasting impression.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book absolutely deserved the starred review it got from Kirkus. Normally, I don't read books intended for younger people 'I am 41', but I picked this up due to some of the reviews I read. I have younger nephews and nieces, and I was looking for summer reading for them for an upcoming visit. This story is done with the artistic precision of a master craftsman. When you first meet this strange, sad girl and her beach, she draws you in until you are fully immersed in her world. It's a strange world, but no stranger than the worlds Dickens or Austen create. The images depicting Magda's exploration of adolescent grief are are written with a beauty rarely found in today's pedestrian fiction. I will definitely have this in the house for their visit. The cover, by the way, is as exceptionally rendered as the prose.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is among the best I have ever read. The only regret I have is not reading this before compiling the summer reading list for my students. Outstanding on every count -- this one will be a prize winner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, this rocked. Plain and simple. I LOVED this book and I even read it slow to make sure I didn't miss anything. Trust me -- read it this summer. You sort of can't stop thinking about the girl in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was drawn to this book by first the title, then the cover. Not in the mood to read, I opened this novel one evening and read until I could read no more. Magda is a riveting character with an active mind and a clear perception of her own delicate balance between madness and sanity. The writing captured me - the crispness of Spollen's details make the characters leap off the page, and the tension in the story comes in layers. Spollen's characters do not let you off the hook, and the poetry in the prose made me reread lines. I find the plot difficult to describe while still doing it justice. Magda is drawn to fire, to madness, to the ideas of darkness and silence. When she begins setting fires in the nearby marshes, the reader sees the paradox that Magda sees in the fires: beauty inside destruction. This sense of strange beauty matches Magda's memory of her mother, and Spollen captures this moment of human frailty with sympathy and clarity that cause the reader not to feel censure for Magda's acts but rather a sense of justification. As Magda roams about the beach she shared with her mother, mourning her mother's passing and her subsequent loss of childhood, there are moments every reader can relate to. Once she steps foot into the more conventional world she terms 'the standard' the fear is that she will retreat back to her familiar beach and follow the watery steps of her mother. What struck me about this book is I felt I was reading a new genre: literary fiction for teens. Instead of the usual plotless, pointless romps around the high school, this book focuses on larger questions plaguing adolescents and does it with language and imagery that deliver poetry on every page.