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The Shark Curtain

The Shark Curtain

by Chris Scofield

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Winner of the 2016 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People

"It's easy to empathize with [Lily]....Throughout, first-time author Scofield creates striking images that will stay with readers."
Publishers Weekly

"This is a painful and poignant story that is not for every reader; but for those ready to deal with complex realistic


Winner of the 2016 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People

"It's easy to empathize with [Lily]....Throughout, first-time author Scofield creates striking images that will stay with readers."
Publishers Weekly

"This is a painful and poignant story that is not for every reader; but for those ready to deal with complex realistic fiction, it has much to offer."

"Dynamic...[Protagonist Lily Asher] comes to glorious, heartbreaking, embraceable, vibrant life courtesy of the experiences, heart and immense imagination and talent of Eugene author Chris Scofield."
The Register-Guard

"Chris Scofield has written a young adult novel that doesn't compromise integrity for trendiness....It's complex and quirky...there can be no doubt as to its uniqueness."

"The Shark Curtain is worth a read by teens and adults alike."
Eugene Weekly

"Absolutely bewitching....Scofield has crafted a dense, poignant book, filled with extraordinarily beautiful language....In exploring themes such as art, sex, and self-acceptance, Scofield examines the trade-offs we all make to be included in the tribe."

"Those who prefer edgy period fiction with truly original characters will be fascinated by this glimpse into the mind of an unmedicated non-neurotypical teen struggling to come of age in the '60s."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The Shark Curtain...is believable and real."
What Is Much

"Brilliant, engaging, engulfing, fulfilling, beautiful. The Shark Curtain will turn you inside out and make you see the world differently. As well you should. As well we all should. Because life isn't about having the answers, it's about grappling with the questions. Chris Scofield's fantastically fantastic novel pins the tail on the donkey with a pneumatic nail gun—I absolutely insist that you read this book!"
Garth Stein, New York Times best-selling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Set against the changing terrain of middle-class values and the siren calls of art and puberty, The Shark Curtain invites us into Lily Asher's wonderful, terrible world. The older of two girls growing up in suburban Portland, Oregon, in the mid-1960s, her inner life stands in quirky contrast to the loving but dysfunctional world around her.

Often misunderstood by her flawed but well-intentioned parents, teenage Lily orbits their tumultuous love affair, embracing what embraces her back: the ghost of her drowned dog, a lost aunt, numbers, shoe boxes, werewolves, rituals, and stories she pens herself (including one about a miscarried sibling she dubs "Frog Boy"). With "regular" visits from a wisecracking Jesus, an affectionate but combative friendship is born—a friendship that strains Lily's grasp of reality as much as her patience.

From the violence of a Peeping Tom and catching Mom in flagrante delicto with the neighbor, to jungles in her closet, butlers under her bed, and barking in public, Lily struggles to balance her family's expectations with the visions that continue to isolate her.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Strange, artistic Lily Asher has frank conversations with Jesus, and after her beloved dog dies saving her life, she worries that she is growing a tail and sometimes barks and howls. Though it’s not always clear what is happening in a scene, given Lily’s unusual way of seeing the world, it’s easy to empathize with this unreliable narrator growing up in Portland, Ore., in the 1960s, where she experiences very real traumas, including her aunt’s accidental death, a peeping neighbor boy, and angry fights between her parents. This is a dense book and something of a time capsule, presenting a suburban America where Lily’s mother is prescribed a “happy pill” and no one talks about the girl being sexually abused next door. Throughout, first-time author Scofield creates striking images that will stay with readers, such as when Lily meets a blind girl riding a white horse at night, or when she tries to get Jesus to stop visiting her by writing “I’M NOT HERE” in masking tape on her bedroom window. Ages 12–up. Agent: Carrie Howland, Donadio & Olson. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"The Shark Curtain is a full-on adventure tale of the best kind. The heroine, Lily Asher, is a 'weirdo'—a sweet, troubled, creative teenager who lives life through the lens of her hyperimagination. Regularly visited by the ghost of her dead dog as well as a tedious and melancholy Jesus, Lily struggles with her own bizarre behavior, puberty, and love for her dysfunctional family. The Ashers are going through what we all went through in the 1960s: the Vietnam War, race riots, the white patriarchy, bullies, death, and too much Valium. It's Lily's unusual voice that brings the story all together. Chris Scofield's The Shark Curtain is a shout-out to all us grrrrrls. Hooray!"
Tom Spanbauer, founder of Dangerous Writing

"You've never met anyone like The Shark Curtain's Lily Asher. With Jesus as her smart-aleck companion, a dead dog as her guide, a sister who thinks she's a 'weirdo,' and parents absorbed in their own drama, Lily leads you wildly through her imagination, her dreams, and the crazy roller coaster of her teenage years. With deep wit and endless invention, Chris Scofield has created a girl—and a story—unlike any other. Read this book and experience its wonder."
Miriam Gershow, author of The Local News

"In The Shark Curtain, Chris Scofield offers us a rare pleasure: a startling and original heroine, Lily Asher, whose quest to understand and experience the world around her is second only to her journey inward, where she grapples with a menagerie of family members, animals, historical and religious figures, and pop cultural icons in a series of both real and imaginary encounters. These twisted and sometimes absurd relationships allow Lily to grasp fleeting and brilliant truths about the human condition, the problem of death, what it means to be 'crazy,' what it means to be 'normal,' and our very real need for love and acceptance, no matter who we are."
J.L. Powers, author of This Thing Called the Future

Children's Literature - Denise Hartzler
Lily Asher hears voices. The voices in her head are those of Jesus, who she calls SOG; her dead dog; and others. Lily also believes that she is becoming a dog and starts growing a tail. She randomly barks too. Lily’s active imagination is frequently misunderstood. Her younger sister dubbed her a “weirdo.” She has only a handful of friends that understand her. Her dysfunctional parents love Lily unconditionally and try to help her deal with her schizophrenia. Lily and her mother share a fondness for art but her father “plays the dogs,” which only brings home more problems. The Shark Curtain is a difficult story to read. With so many sensitive subjects such as schizophrenia, addiction, love, religion, and sexuality, this book will not please many. However, Scofield brings the readers into Lily’s mind so successfully and seamlessly that it is a hard book not to love. Lily may be a startling heroine, but she is a rare pleasure to know. Readers will feel the unconditional love within this family. Expect to bounce from one thread to the next, which sometimes disrupts continuity or flow, but again Scofield weaves the story in a way that may not be problematic for her intended teen audience. Both male and female readers will delight in this edgy and refreshing novel. Reviewer: Denise Hartzler; Ages 16 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this novel set in 1960s Portland, OR, 14-year-old Lily Asher hears voices. Not just any voices—Jesus (SOG, as she calls Him), her dead dog, and others regularly make appearances in her mental world. She also feels as though she is becoming a dog, believes that she's growing a tail, and often randomly barks. Her highly active imagination is frequently misunderstood. The teen is dubbed a "weirdo" by her younger sister and has few friends. Her unconditionally loving but completely dysfunctional parents try their hardest to help Lily deal with her schizophrenia. Lily and her mother share an interest in art, but her mother's deepening alcoholism and substance abuse cause the family even more grief. Her father "plays the dogs" and brings home more trouble. The family, despite their plethora of issues, genuinely loves Lily and each other. This is a difficult story to read in part because the author brings readers into Lily's mind so successfully. Teens will bounce from one thread to the next, which often does not allow for much continuity or flow. The plot careens from one (usually highly dramatic) event to the next. Also, their family's frank talk about sexuality and irreverent attitude toward God can be very startling for some readers. VERDICT While it is encouraging to see a YA book with a mentally ill protagonist who is loved unconditionally for who she is, the narrative is jarring and not engaging enough to keep teens' attention.—Lisa Crandall, formerly at the Capital Area District Library, Holt, MI
Kirkus Reviews
In her debut novel, Scofield offers readers an insider's view of the unusual mind of Lily Asher.Lily's 13 and growing up in 1960s suburban Portland, Oregon, with her well-meaning, sometimes-dysfunctional family. That titular curtain—the confusingly thin veil between Lily's hyperactive imagination and reality—is the book's central experience. Like Lily, readers work hard to sort out fact from fantasy. As if some underwater world, the book teems—with dialogue, characters and dangerous events: Younger sister Lauren falls into a quarry on one family outing; Lily nearly drowns on the next and is "saved" by her diseased dog (who dies and haunts the rest of the story, along with Jesus, Lily's imaginary companion). Lily's nearly assaulted by a peeping Tom, witnesses her mother and a neighbor in bed, sees a beloved aunt have a breakdown. Through everything, Lily and Jesus carry on lively conversations even in unlikely places like swimming pools—" 'Neato, huh?' Jesus wiggles His eyebrows like Groucho Marx. 'Did you notice that I'm not wet?' "—and Lily imagines herself transforming into a dog or werewolf. Like Lily, readers may find themselves having trouble coping with the many events speeding at them; sharper editing and a clearer plotline might have saved them from drowning under the story's weight. An ambitious, self-conscious muddle. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Akashic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Chris Scofield is a novelist and short story writer. She's worked with authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Tom Spanbauer and is a former special education, art, and preschool teacher. Scofield studies cello, travels internationally, and lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband and two goldfish. She is the author of The Shark Curtain.

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