By: Susan J. Korman
Publisher: Darby Creek
Publication Date: January 2011
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2011
Everyone at Southside High School called George Salmon “Fish” for short. It was lunchtime and Ben and Fish headed to a table where Amy was sitting already obsessing over what she was going to do for her science fair project. Kwame Williams, who was sitting at the next table, spouted out his idea for a project. The guy “was way too intense about school” and when Fish claimed he wasn’t planning on doing a project Steve Jones took a jab at him. “Maybe ADHD boy doesn’t do science projects. He can’t focus.” Duh, everyone knew Fish had attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder so it wasn’t big news. Fish hated taking the meds because they made him “feel weird,” but Amy stuck up for him claiming he was “an amazing artist.” Everyone knew that too and Fish also knew they were just messing with him.
That night Fish was heading over to Ella’s house. She lived in a fancy neighborhood, the type his Mom called “the other side of town.” The group had eight weeks to prepare for Sports Night and it was decided that Fish and Ella would decorate the gym with a mural. He started to draw like crazy to make his point and didn’t even notice anyone around him. When Fish got outside he threw some “crazy back flips” across the lawn. It didn’t go unnoticed by Amy who rolled her eyes and said, “Someone did not take his medicine today.” Fish was acting a little wild and when Ella asked if his meds kept him awake at night he had to agree they did. She innocently said, “That’s what I need. Something to keep me awake, so I can study for physics tonight.” Fish didn’t need to study for any old test and that night he slept better than he had in ages … he gave her one of his little blue pills.
All of a sudden everyone else seemed to be interested in his pills too. Ella had given him the thumbs-up and her boyfriend Zack was interested. So was Amber Hynes and later even Kwame would want some of those little blue pills. It was a weird way for a guy to become popular. When Fish sold some pills to Zack he made more that month than he “had made working at All-Star Burgers for the entire summer,” but he suddenly found himself unable to concentrate in school. Where was all this leading him? Matt Lee knew a Dr. Jim who would sell him more pills...
George “Fish” Salmon is a young man who unwittingly gets caught up in the vicious cycle of selling his meds. His unrealistic thinking could lead to serious consequences, but he simply can’t seem to see it, even when his friends try to stop him. In addition to learning about how vulnerable Fish and some of the other students were, it was interesting to know how he felt about his disorder. He claimed that “On the medication, I didn’t feel like myself. It slowed me down in a way that I didn’t like, and I felt spacey and strange, like the real me was nearby, but floating somewhere outside my body.” This fast-paced tale abruptly ended at first I was uncertain if I liked that aspect. When I realized that it purposefully and bluntly forced me to think about the serious consequences of innocent acts, I realized the power of its message. This is one is a series of the “Surviving Southside” collection, a collection you might want to consider adding to your classroom shelves!
Quill says: This is a stunning story about Fish, a young man with ADHD, who decides to sell his meds.