I have a very delicious post for you today, my fishy friends! Not only do I have a scrumptious review, but I also have the author of Fish Out of Water (Natalie Whipple!) here for a Q&A! PLUS there’s a giveaway at the end of the post. EXCITED? YOU SHOULD BE. I am. This is a really really good book, okay?!
Let us dive in. (Har, har…what?! I have license to make fishy puns.)
Natalie Whipple, sadly, does not have any cool mutations like her characters. Unless you count the ability to watch anime and Korean dramas for hours on end. Or her uncanny knack for sushi consumption.
She grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook Thai curry, Pho, and “real” ramen.
CAIT: I love how Fish Out of Water is so diverse and packed with interesting facts! Did you draw off any personal experiences when writing about mixed-race families, Alzheimer, Marine Biology, or being seriously good at golf?
NATALIE: There is some of my own personal experience in there! While I don’t look it, I’m part Maori and grew up in a diverse and also not-so-diverse family, depending on which side we’re talking about. FISH is an exaggerated exploration of my own grandmother’s prejudices. The Alzheimer’s aspect came from my mother’s work as an in-home caretaker for people with the disease—some of the stories are even straight from her experiences. And golf? I’m horrible at golf, but my dad and brother have loved it since before I can remember. Because of this, I happen to know quite a bit about the sport and how it fits in the Monterey area where the book takes place.
CAIT: I absolutely adore how you’re honest and open on your blog about behind-the-scenes with publishing and also living with anxiety as a writer. Do you have any advice for we writers on managing self-doubt toward our art?
NATALIE: It’s tricky, because I think self-doubt is as essential as it is dangerous. We need it to edit ourselves and improve our work, but then too much cripples us and makes it impossible to create. For me, I try to compartmentalize my self-doubt, if you will. When I’m drafting, I let myself be messy and confident and tell myself that’s how I make a story. Once I get to editing, I turn on the self-doubt because it helps me clean up the story and make it what it’s supposed to be.So I would say to look at self-doubt not as this horrible thing, but as a double-edged sword that helps you get your work done. That allows me appreciate that aspect of the job.
CAIT: Do you have a favourite quote from Fish Out of Water?
NATALIE: I don’t have a favourite quote, but I do have a favourite scene—and that is what I affectionately call The Oatmeal Scene. There’s a lot Mika learns in that scene, and those were things I had to learn in my life, too.
CAIT: Time for a toughie question…Which is better: Indian or Japanese food?
NATALIE: That’s just mean. I love food. All the food. If I’m dying for something spicy and comforting, then Indian all the way. But I also love sushi and the cleanness of Japanese food. While we’re at it, let’s add Korean and Thai food to this list. I love including food in my books and will likely hit all these at some point in my writing.
CAIT: (I know, I’m awfully cruel. ) So, I’m a huge fan of The Princess Bride and it features hugely in your book. I have to ask…how much of The Princess Bride can you quote?!
NATALIE: Hmm, I would say maybe 25%, honestly. I do love the movie, but I don’t have a knack for remembering a ton of quotes. I wish I could be one of those people who can rattle off quote after quote from hundreds of movies, but alas, I am not. I had to watch The Princess Bride quite a few times to make sure I got all the things I quoted and referenced right. I know, it’s so hard to be a writer sometimes, ha.
I loved how diverse and unique it was! The narrator, Mika, is half-Japanese. Her grandmother has Alzheimer’s. One of Mika’s best friends is Indian. Mika’s hobbies include sand-sculpture and fish-keeping and…OH YEAH…she wants to be a scientist. Can we just say this book is freakishly fantastic?!
It had me hook, line, and sinker. HA HA HA…okay are the puns getting worse or is it just me?
It’s about family and culture and fitting it. I mean DUH. Look at the title! Everyone can relate to being a “fish out of water” at some point in their lives. I loved that! Betty, Mika’s grandmother, is a fish-out-of-water in her own son’s home because she’s always forgetting things/people/food/life-in-general. Mika is a mixed-culture kid and her grandmother Betty is so, so racist to her. Another fish-out-of-water moment.
Then there’s this sharky (oh gosh, stahp, Cait, SPARE US THE FISH PUNS) romance between Mika and her boss’ nephew, the rich brat: Dylan. They have a real hate-on-hate relationship which equals a lot chemistry. They’re fantastic! I shipped them like a turtle to the Pacific Ocean. Like seagulls to chips! Like Dory and Marlin! But you have to admit the puns are GLORIOUS. Dylan might be a brat, but he had a super sweet side, although… um, communication problems.
THERE ARE ALSO PRINCESS BRIDE REFERENCES! Nerd alert! Nerd alert! So. much. win.
It’s cute and entertaining and has a warm fuzzy conclusion. So, yes, I usually read zombies and magic and murder, but this was so REFRESHING. I’m a huge fan of Natalie Whipple too. Her blog is amazing. Her superhero books are the best. The tone for Fish Out of Water is a bit lighter and younger, but it does have smushy moments. And lots of heart. Also goldfish. And a LOT of delicious food. I mean, what’s not to love here?!
Mika Arlington was supposed to spend the summer after her junior year shadowing her marine biologist parents at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but when her estranged grandmother randomly shows up on the doorstep one day, those plans are derailed. Because Grandma Betty isn’t here to play nice—she is cranky, intolerant of Mika’s mixed-race-couple parents, and oh yeah she has Alzheimer’s and is out of money. While Mika’s family would rather not deal with Grandma Betty, they don’t have much choice. And despite Mika’s protests, she is roped into caring for a person that seems impossible to have compassion for. And if that wasn’t hard enough, Mika must train the new guy at her pet shop job who wants to be anywhere else, and help a friend through her own family crisis. Something’s gotta a give, but whichever ball Mika drops means losing someone she loves. Not exactly a recipe for Best Summer Ever—or is it?
Thank you to Hot Keys for sponsoring the giveaway! (AUSTRALIAN ONLY.)