Ever wondered what it would be like to survive a shark attack? Me neither, but I found out when I read Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham. Man, life can be rough after your pleasant day at the beach turns sour and a shark chomps down on your arm. Maybe if you'd stopped to help that woman who dropped her tray, maybe if you'd taken a little longer to get on the road, maybe if you'd done just one small thing differently you wouldn't have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But you were. You don't remember much of the attack (disappointingly for your macabre reader) but the aftermath is endless days in hospital, after waking to the realization that the doctors had to amputate your right arm. And of course, that was your "good" hand. You were an artist and now your dreams have gone up in smoke. Everyone tells you that you should be happy to be alive, but you're bitter. You're bitter and you can't stand the attention and the Pity Bears that strangers send and the letters about what an inspiration you are just give you the creeps. How does life go on once something so horrific has happened to you?
I was glad that this book wasn't one of those plucky, I-shall-survive stories. I thought it was very true to life that our heroine would be bitter and that she'd have realistic difficulty in accepting her altered life. The tale was told in free verse, and mostly it works well. A few of the poems fell flatter than others, but the premise of the story is enough to carry a reader through the instances of less than perfect poetry. One particular poem threatened to send the book over the edge into absurd hilarity, completely unintentional I think, and then the final poem in the book references the same poem. I still can't tell whether the author meant for it to be really weird or not. It involves a letter from a young amputee suggesting that the main character have a funeral for her arm. . . and I'm almost laughing recalling it now. Luckily, the book recovered, as the narrator tries to recover and to adjust to life with a prosthetic arm (which she names Chuck!) This is an unusual premise for a book and one that naturally caught the attention of a ghoulish person like myself. I have to admit that I was curious about just how difficult it would be to go through life with only a left hand, and I decided to try an experiment in which I used only my left hand to type, open drawers, and do all of the other daily activities. I lasted less than five minutes. I'd better stay out of the water.