Sblash! - Branwen Davies
Updated: Feb 4
*For Welsh review, see language toggle switch*
♥Book of the month: Nov 2022♥
(suggested) reading age: 11+
(suggested) interest age: 10-14
Genre: #fiction #teen #school #healthandwellbeing
Well, first things first, I’m clearly not the target audience for this book. According to Gwales, it's a book for readers between the ages of 10 and 13, but I’d say 11-14 personally. Like I said, I'm not in high school anymore, but I have been (albeit a long time ago!). For anyone was has been bullied themselves, or has indeed been a bully this book will chime with you.
As someone who was 'bigger' than his friends, unfortunately I have experience of both sides of the situation, having been bullied about my weight, and to my shame, have been a bit of a bully myself. Something I’m not proud of. If only I had a time machine, things would be very different. The experience of being bullied never really leaves you, and just reading Beca's story brings back some old, painful feelings -even if the context is different.
On land, Beca is somewhat awkward, and is well used to being the butt of other people’s jokes. As she’s bigger than her classmates, she stands out and this makes her an obvious target for the bullies. The story begins with the other kids teasing her because of her stretch marks (despite the fact I’m 99% sure we’ve ALL got them!)
Once she hits the water, she transforms complexly. Much like a penguin or a seal, she may be clunky on land, but in the water she’s a skilled and accomplished competitive swimmer. The pool, which has become her refuge, is a safe space, where she feels comfortable and happy. None of her fellow pupils can swim like her -so why has she kept this talent a secret from everyone?
One of the ringleaders who makes Becca’s life a nightmare is Siwan, the prettiest, skinniest and most popular girl of the year. She goes out of her way to make life miserable for Beca. Beca always thought she was safe in the pool – that is, until Siwan turns up….
Beca isn't completely alone, I'm glad to say. She has a small band of loyal friends. But when Jacob, her mate, starts going out with Siwan, the enemy, this creates a bit of a headache for Beca. After an extremely cruel encounter, the two girls' lives come together in an unexpected way.
Without saying too much, it was interesting to see a glimpse of Siwan's life, and despite being the most popular girl, life isn't all rosy for her either. They say, don’t they, that bullies are deeply unhappy people.
Over the course of the novel, we see poor Beca at her lowest, but also growing as a person and coming through the other side stronger a person. As she gains confidence and begins to accept her body, she becomes happier in her own skin. This isn't a fairy-tale either, and while Beca can't change her body shape, she can learn to hold her head high and be proud of what her body can do. In a way, the 'bullies' are still there in the background – there will always be haters, but Beca doesn't let them affect her in the same way. This is a very important message for anyone who is having a hard time right now.
Love yourself and love each other peeps!
While I think the novel will appeal more to girls, I think this is a book that everyone would benefit from reading, especially if you're struggling with self-image and self-esteem. I hope it gives strength to those who are struggling at the moment, and if it makes the rest of us stop, and think, before saying or doing something nasty to another person, then the novel will have succeeded in my opinion. I realised after reading, how unattainable some of the expectations and pressures we put on today's young people are – girls especially – to look and behave a certain way. Celeb culture and apps like Instagram and TikTok have a lot to answer for. Looking back, I’m glad I finished my school days before the era of mobile phones, Love Island and social media.
Whilst the story is at times rather simplistic and clichéd, it’s definitely an easy read, similar in length to the ‘stori sydyn’ series. We could do with more short stories of this size.