Though published as a novel for an adult market, Amphibian has total teen appeal. Not just because Phineas is nine and he’s dealing with some very nine-year-old issues like bullying, his parents’ divorce and his grandfather’s death. Amphibian is a teen pick because it speaks about that horrible anxiety of being a certain age where you feel out of control, not able to make a difference in the world around you but accutely aware of the problems that need attention.
Phineas is a really awesome kid and I loved just getting familiar with his voice for the first 30 pages. He’s an animal nut; knows everything about obscure animals and their habits, and he cares DEEPLY about their conservation. That’s why it slowly tears him apart when his teacher announces that she bought a White’s tree frog for a class pet. Phin sees this frog’s new habit as it is: a prison. And he plans on busting him out.
Amphibian was a tough read. You really had to tough out all of the facts about animal cruelty that Phin is worried about. Carla addresses animal rights activism in a balanced way, leaving room for the reader to make up their own minds instead of gunning them down in righteous indignation. Kind of a hard feat considering the stereotypes of animal rights activists and “tree huggers” (also addressed well in the book). And Phin’s voice and thought-process is perfectly crafted. This is a hilarious book as well as an emotional one.
My only qualm is the tidy clean-up at the end on the topic of bullying. I won’t give anything away but I wish it had been left unanswered as it often is in life. But this is a good book and just pulling off such a strong, established, memorable character such as Phin should win this woman an award of some kind. It certainly has won her much deserved critical praise.
I would definately give this book to a 12 year-old. There is mention of the F word in places, but it is used in a way that is necessary to the characters. Phin and his mom even discuss the uses of the word and its power. I loved Phin for the way his mind worked. I even started to think like him; linear but with an unerring compassion. It will be awhile before he is out of my head.
Another truly memorable character's voice:
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff