Down in the Belly of the Whale

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Pub Date 05 May 2018 | Archive Date 31 May 2018

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Description

A contemporary story about family and friendship for fans of Eleanor Porter and L.M. Montgomery.

Harper Southwood is a teenage girl who can sense when people will get sick—but so what? She can’t predict her best friend’s depression or her mother’s impending health crisis. Being helpful is all Harper ever wanted, but she feels helpless in the face of real adversity. Now, she’s got a chance to summon her courage and use her wits to fight for justice. Laugh and cry along with this irrepressible, high-spirited teen in her journey of self-discovery, as she learns that compassion and internal strength are her real gifts, her true superpower.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kelley Bowles Gusich writes young adult novels under the pen name Kelley Kay Bowles. Kelley taught high school English and drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but a 1994 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis has (circuitously and finally) brought her to the life of writer and mother, both occupations she adores and dreamed about way back when she was making up stories revolving around her Barbie and Ken dolls. Her debut novel, cozy mystery Death by Diploma (pen name Kelley Kaye), was released by Red Adept Publishing on February 2016, and is first in her Chalkboard Outlines® series.

Kelley has two wonderful and funny sons and an amazing husband who cooks for her. She lives in Southern California.

A contemporary story about family and friendship for fans of Eleanor Porter and L.M. Montgomery.

Harper Southwood is a teenage girl who can sense when people will get sick—but so what? She...


A Note From the Publisher

FORMATS: Hardback, paperback, EPUB, MOBI/Kindle, audio book.

FORMATS: Hardback, paperback, EPUB, MOBI/Kindle, audio book.


Advance Praise

"A teenager learns to cope with her loved ones’ problems in this YA novel.

Harper Southwood is in her sophomore year in high school. She has only one friend, Cora Perkins; is in love with a boy she’s never spoken to; and feels so different from those around her that she’s become convinced she must be a changeling: a troll switched at birth with a human baby. That would account for her twitches and allergic reactions whenever someone nearby is getting sick. It would also explain her curiosity—she’s always looking things up—her insecurities, and her inability to connect with her classmates. Harper may not feel normal, but she does have the love and support of her family: her mum and dad and her gay live-in uncle. Teenage life is what it is; Harper knows she’ll get through it. But then Cora starts cutting herself and Harper handles it poorly. Before she knows it, Cora lands in the hospital. Then Harper’s mum takes ill, and the teen, already out of her depth, is partnered in science class with the boy she loves. The people she relies on most now need her support, but can she cope with the serious adult issues suddenly piled on top of her teen problems? Bowles (In Vision’s Shadow, 2006), who also writes books under the name of Kelley Kaye, clearly understands the world of young adults. Her depiction of Harper—her anxieties and excitability; her inner and outer personas; her heightened sense of the importance of “now”—cannot fail to pull readers into a teen mindset. The story is increasingly dark, yet in the telling it neither wallows nor depresses. Harper is allowed strength in her vulnerability. For all her isolation, it is her empathy that makes her special. There is a message here but not one that is pushed beyond the pale. Bowles writes to engage and to confront yet always seemingly with the intent to uplift. The resulting novel, far from being a leaden treatise on teen suffering, spurns literary pretensions and strives instead to include Harper’s generation of young adults and give this group its due. Girls especially will relate, but there is room here for everyone.

A sage, vivacious tale of people set apart and brought together."—Kirkus Reviews (a Kirkus recommended review)


“Bowles' writing is lively and fun, yet still grounded and full of depth. The characters pop off of the page, all vividly realized. No one in this book is perfect, but they are all trying their best. They're real and three dimensional. They hide things from each other not to be mean, but because they don't want their loved ones to worry. This is a wonderful book that cleverly explores some powerful and painful emotions.”

—Victor Catano, best-selling author of Tail & Trouble and technical director at the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College

 

“Tackles sensitive social issues with heartfelt emotion and tender wit. Readers will be instantly drawn into the world of Harper Ella Southwood.... Well-drawn characters and themes exploring the mysterious power of the unseen infuse this inventive, revelatory novel.”

—Kathleen Gerard, author of the novels The Thing Is, In Transit, and Cold Comfort

 

“The plot—revolving around the kinds of tragic occurrences that, unfortunately, we read about on an all-too-regular basis these days—feels real and relatable…. You quickly find yourself rooting for [Harper Southwood]…. I found myself smiling as she sneezed…. All in all, an enjoyable and captivating read.”

—Brian S. Leon, author of Havoc Rising

 

“A novel that tugs on all the strings, bravely tackling a host of real issues affecting the average American teenager... While the people around her are falling apart, Harper tries to be the glue that holds them together, confronting life's tragedies with the maturity of an adult, the awkwardness of a teen, and the courage of a child. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes hopeful, always true, Down in the Belly of the Whale reminds us that life can hit hard no matter where we are in it, and our strength and charity will have more to say about how we handle those hits than the number of years we have behind us. Bowles' writing is superb, her characters dimensional and identifiable. Down in the Belly of the Whale is Ordinary People for a new generation.”

—Jason Parent, author of What Hides Within and Seeing Evil

 

 “Kelley Kay’s very personal story of ‘growing up peculiar’ is at all times humorous and harrowing, romantic and revealing, and an honest true-to-life lesson about being a teenager in this most interesting of times. Though not written for trolls, it’s definitely a must read for anyone who’s ever felt not quite human.”
—Shawn Clingman, English/drama teacher and director, Grand Junction High School.

“A consummate supernatural coming-of-age story. Harper Southwood is the girl I wouldn’t have given a second look at when I was in high school, but look back on as an adult with regret at passing up the chance to get to know her.”

—Ira Creasman, a high school librarian who reads a lot of young adult fiction and ruminates over what might have been

 

 “A fast-paced, yet heartfelt account of an average teenager girl whose life takes a series of sudden and unexpected turns…. Possibly the most important aspect of Down in the Belly of the Whale, are the messages that it conveys. Some of these messages are to be brave, even when you do not think you cannot be, that you belong even when you think you do not, that the person you thought you loved is not the right person for you, and that high school anatomy is as awful as I has I remember it.”
—Timmie Quitugua, librarian

“I was immediately transported back to my high school hallways, my high school dramas… my high school self. Harper Southwood is winsome and charming.  I laughed out loud when Harper talked and cried with her when she was afraid. The fact that acupuncture had a cameo role in the story was just icing on the cake.”

—Sara Beckner, MACoM (Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), Lac (Licensed Acupunturist)

"A teenager learns to cope with her loved ones’ problems in this YA novel.

Harper Southwood is in her sophomore year in high school. She has only one friend, Cora Perkins; is in love with a boy she’s...


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Featured Reviews

4 cookies I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review (So I wanted to try something new and do cookies instead of stars so here we go...) First I want to thank this publisher for giving me the opportunity to review this book! First off... Why did this take me forever!? And secondly oh my goodness... This book literally had me crying. It was really good! Now... On to analyzing! description Harper: Harper showed some real character development throughout. It wasn't super strong, but it was still good. We saw her grow as a person as well. She became more confident in herself and thats awesome to have in a character. I give two thumbs up to this main character! Cora: Oh sweet Cora! (without giving spoilers...) Her story was hard to read. It was brutal, but I believed it should be. I haven't read really any books on this issue, and it really opened my eyes up to it. Anyways, her actual character was the witty best friend and she was actually really fun to read about. She struggled... But in the end, we see she has came a long way. Uncle Pasta: Uncle Pasta! This Uncle is honestly so encouraging to Harper. He is hilarious and always manages to get a little chuckles out me occasionally. Mr. Perkins: Before I go on a rant... This is Cora's jerk of a dad. He won't believe Cora when she comes to him with this burden on her shoulders and still won't believe her after the hospital. It just makes me shake my head all the way through his review. However y'all, he turns out ok at the end. But this is really only after things began to show, (sorry I'm speaking it riddles I am really trying to keep spoilers out) so Im sure its hard for Cora to forgive him. Isabella: This is Harpers mother. Isabella throughout the story is struggling with disease. Isabella's over all character is honestly awesome. She is a great mother, she stands up for Harper, and is always there for Harper when she needs her. Isabella is also a author and seeing her ask those nurses if she can add them in her book, made me literally laugh so hard! Micheal (so sorry if I misspelled this!): Harpers dad had a really strong love for his family. It was actually beautiful how much he loved them. His character had a lot of backstory that shows at the end as well. His overall character was just bright and encouraging. Larson: This kid... He was so inconsiderate of Harpers feelings. Rude and just plain insensitive what was going on with Cora. I didn't like him at all, not even at the end. He didn't change and didn't grow. Cade: This little muffin! Cade was a really big help to Harper and Cora's cause closer to the end of the story. The time we spent with him, he was witty and willing to help. I WANT MORE!!! Lets start with the cons: I didn't have many problems with this but I did have one that I wanted to address. So having the different issues like I said was good. I just don't think the author should have put all of them. I felt sometimes the author was rushing to put all the issues in with different characters, when in reality she could have just used one or two. And thats honestly my only issue. Lets end with the pros: This story had a really interesting background to it. The different issues they put into the story really brought light to things we may not talk about on a daily basis. The characters and their personalities were fun and interesting, it really made me want to keep reading. I would totally recommend this book!

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Down in the Belly of the Whale is an engaging story about one girl's strange abilities and the struggles she faces while feeling like an outsider. I really enjoyed this novel and even read it in just one sitting. Harper is a teenager and (like a lot of other girls her age) feels completely out of place. Apart from the fact that she does not feel too comfortable in her own body, she has the strange ability of sensing whenever someone around her is about to get sick. However, when two of the people she loves the most suddenly are threatened, Harper did not see it coming, and is thus even more afraid of the possible consequences... I really really liked this little story. The characters are relatable and especially Harper seems to be a quite though teen. I found myself laughing out loud at times due to her way of wording things while at the same time she is brave and more than ready to help the people she loves. But also the other characters, e.g. her friend Cora and especially her Uncle Peter (aka. Uncle Pasta) are really lovable. The writing style is engaging and makes you want to stick to the story and read it from cover to cover (and as the novel is quite short this is also absolutely doable). The only thing I could criticize is that the beginning felt a bit rushed - I would have preferred the novel to be a bit longer to give the reader the change of getting a bit more into it before the main events start off. However, this didn't bother me too much. All in all, a 3.5 star rating and a book I will definitely recommend to friends and my students.

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This book touched me in ways that I wasn't expecting at all. The writing itself is quite simplistic but the story it tells packs a punch. With the two main plot points occurring throughout the book, I expected it to be confusing or hard to keep track of, but it was quite the opposite actually. The two main conflicts weren't distractions to each other but merely added an extra element into the mix that helped make things even more intense than they were. As far as characters go, I quite liked the portrayal of all of them. I did feel that Harper was...immature? The way the book was written made her seem much younger than a high schooler - more like she was ten or eleven really. It might have just been the simplistic writing style, but especially for someone that old, she seemed a little clueless. I really liked all the relationships that Harper had with people around her. The family dynamic was wonderful. They weren't dysfunctional by any means but they weren't perfect, and I really appreciated that. Uncle Pasta was a great character addition and added in some diversity that I was very glad to see. Him being gay wasn't a main plot point or his entire personality, but merely just a fact of his character. I did expect a little more from Larson, especially because of the way Harper fawns over him (which, by the way, extremely relatable!) but I liked how their relationship developed. Larson was, refreshingly, not a perfect boy kid like Harper thought and often fooled herself into thinking. The book was paced quite quickly which was helped by the writing style, but I liked it. It was straight and to the point, but most of all, it was relatable. Often, it is difficult to find yourself in books about such heavy and serious topics when you haven't experienced them, but between Harper's feeling out of place, acne, banter with Cora that I could completely see myself having, and an imperfect yet loving family, I felt connected, in a way, to these characters. The only problem I had with this book was the slightly abrupt (and a little rushed) ending and occasionally, the writing style. I do feel as though the portrayal of character's emotions wasn't as vivid as it could have been. Though this is first person, I do believe some of the personalities and feelings of characters that were not Harper could have been shown better. One of the main characters who I wanted to learn more about was Harper's father. His characterization wasn't great. I also would have loved to see more of Cade but I definitely understand why I didn't. Overall, I'm really glad I read this. Between the way it deals with such heavy topics and how real and raw it feels, it is quite the enjoyable read.

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I have to admit, Down in the Belly of the Whale is not my usual read. But Kelley’s storytelling quickly engages the reader and her characters are well developed enough that I could relate to them even though I have never been a teenage girl. The plot—revolving around the kinds of tragic occurrences that, unfortunately, we read about on an all-too-regular basis these days—feels real and relatable. Watching Harper Southwood tackle her insecurities and issues common to almost everyone who ever attended high school grounds her character in a persona that you empathize with when she’s faced with far larger issues surrounding her family and best friend and you quickly find yourself rooting for her. The book is fast paced and well-written and, despite being thoroughly researched, Kelley never allows the story to become overwhelmed with details. The issues at the center of the tale are dark and daunting, but Kelley handles them in a very respectful way. While the overall story arc is simple, the characters and events are complex enough to add significant depth to its development and make the story captivating and enjoyable. I found that Harper’s quirky “superpower” added a unique and interesting wrinkle to the usual teen coming-of-age issues we usually get, and I found myself smiling as she sneezed. All in all, I found Down in the Belly of the Whale an enjoyable and captivating read and I look forward to Kelley’s next book.

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Wow, a MUST read for teens! Harper’s character embodies the important life lessons on courage and resiliency. I was so enthralled with the story line that I canceled my plans for the day as I was pulled into Harper’s character and her journey of discovery on just how courageous and resilient she is. As a person living with a chronic disease and someone who helps others live their best life while facing the challenges of living with a chronic disease, the characters, the challenges and how each character dealt with it are as realistic as it gets! ~ Nicole Schulte

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High schooler Harper Southwood can sense impending illness in the people around her, but she finds her insightful ability more frustrating than useful. It’s just one more source of uncertainty for this self-described troll as she struggles to make sense of adolescence. Meanwhile, her best friend, Cora, is so weighted down with childhood trauma that she has become seriously depressed. And Harper’s mother is suffering mysterious symptoms that will lead to a frightening diagnosis. Then, just as her loved ones face the struggle of their lives, Harper’s power suddenly deserts her. If this empathetic teen wants to find her place in the world, she’ll have to learn where her true strength lies and, just maybe, overcome her doubts to become a hero. As story narrator, Harper is at turns insightful and overly burdened by her sense of guilt at being unable to protect her nearest and dearest from harm. In true teenage fashion, she can’t distance herself from events. This is Harper’s story more than it is her best friend’s story or her mother’s story. And that’s a wonderful reflection of what being a teenager is all about: moving from self-involvement to recognition of others’ feelings and struggles. Supported by a hilarious, loving, and beautifully developed cast of character’s Harper begins to emerge as a mature (though still delightfully gawky) young woman. After all, her mother is a novelist who loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer, her awesome uncle can shove a strand of pasta up his nose then pull it out of his mouth, and her best friend hasn’t lost her fondness for knock-knock jokes, despite a painful past. The novel maintains a brisk pace, and the major drama of the plot is set against a daze of regular high school life. So Harper dissects a cat with her basketball star crush, learns the art of the stage kiss, and laments her frizzy hair. Down in the Belly of the Whale balances frankness with tenderness when addressing issues of illness, trauma, and teenage uncertainty. And it never once loses its compassionate, quirky coming-of-age sensibility.

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With a quirky use of language and dialect, Kelley Kay Bowles has created endearing, believable, engaging characters inside a story with very contemporary themes – topics that are in the news now, as well as on the minds of young adults. Kelley’s experience teaching high school comes through in how the main character, Harper, talks to her friends and family, using made up words like “oogy” that perfectly capture the sentiment of the moment. Her use of internal monologue is delightful. The story includes an introduction to the medical world that a teen might need to face, and to a small degree the legal world, in a way that is understandable, but not overwhelming, to young adults. I have lived through a trauma similar to one described in this book, and Kelley handles it in a careful, tactful and compassionate manner. She illustrates good role models for healthy families as well as a gentle treatment of dysfunctional ones. Overall this well-written novel is dense with activity and drama, dealing with difficult topics that are on a teenager’s mind, in a sensitive manner that includes a good dose of humor and healing.

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Harper Southwood believes that she has the ability to sense when someone is already sick. Not a great super power, but she goes with it. As she struggles to figure out why her knee twitches around her bff, Cora, and her body doesn't do anything when around her ailing mother, Harper goes on a wonderful adventure into finding herself. Cute, fun, and happy. Even though there are various tough topics in this book (mentioning them might be a spoiler), I still found this book so happy and fun. It taught some life lessons along the way, and Harper is a great protagonist!

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Right after I started a new job at a new university, one of the students in my department committed suicide. It was a shock to everyone. He was well liked and popular. He was a talented student, with many friends. What on earth could have made him do this? Emotions ran from sadness to grief to anger to helplessness, and in the end there were no easy answers that could possible satisfy the many people he left behind. Kelley Kaye Bowles has created an incredible portrait of a young woman in a similar position. Harper Southwood surely views her best friend Cora as having it easier that she does. She sees Cora as beautiful and friendly, the one all the boys are crushing on. Harper, with her frizzy hair and awkwardness and clumsiness, is convinced she's a troll. But when Cora attempts suicide, it turns Harper's life upside down. Harper beats herself up, and has the same thoughts many do when a tragedy strikes a friend. How could I have missed the signs? How could I have not noticed her pain? Was I so wrapped up in my own issues? The great thing about Harper is that she really does have legitimate issues. Her mom has been sick. Her dad has been stressed out about work. This isn't the stereotype where the girl only cares about what boys are liking her. (Although that is present here, but in a humorous way that also helps the plot.) Bowles' writing is lively and fun, yet still grounded and full of depth. The characters pop off of the page, all vividly realized. No one in this book is perfect, but they are all trying their best. They're real and three dimensional. They hide things from each other not to be mean, but because they don't want their loved ones to worry. This is a wonderful book that cleverly explored some powerful and painful emotions. Highly recommended. Victor Catano Technical Director at the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College

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<STRONG>WrensReads Review:</strong> <i>Thank you to the publisher for a review copy of this book. All the words below are my own opinions and thoughts</i> This was a very interesting read. There are a lot of issues thrown into this little book. I am going to keep my review short Harper and Cora both are dealing with separate things and have a lot of growth through the book. Sexual Assault and Illness are the big contenders. I do feel as if this book had a lot of things thrown into it, so not all the pieces could be discussed and digested at length. This story had a lot of promise to dig deep into one of the biggest problems we are facing today, and I feel it only touched the surface. It is still an enjoyable and something I believe a lot of people will enjoy. The narrator of the story writes the way people talk. For example, when someone stretches a word out like "waaaaay" or they mispronounce something, the author writes it the way it sounded. I really enjoyed though, even though it does make it seem like a younger read than the topics it talks about. Over all, I think this is a book young kids should read in order to be able to see the signs people are giving off around them. There are more people than you think that are dealing with a lot of the issues in this book, including someone close to you I bet. Sometimes people don't know how to ask for help; sometimes they just need someone to see and care. <a href="http://wrensreads.com/" target="_blank">WrensReads</a> | <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/wrensreads" target="_blank">Goodreads</a> | <a href="https://www.twitter.com/wrensreads" target="_blank">Twitter</a> | <a href="https://www.instagram.com/wrensreads/" target="_blank">Instagram</a>

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Harper Southwood doesn’t have much going for her. She only has one friend, and the boy she loves doesn’t know she exists. To make matters worse, her mother is ill, and her best and only friend is a cutter. But Harper has a special ability: she can tell when people are ill. Not just tell; she can feel it. Her nose twitches, her senses heighten, all kinds of things happen when someone has a problem. Her special gifts become a nightmare when she carries burdens stronger than any high school sophomore should ever have. “I stand back, waving my hands in the air like directionless birds, and I want to shout, want to jump in, want to do something to stop it. I need the superhero X-ray vision and supernatural mojo that should be attached to troll powers.” Down In the Belly of the Whale is a sweet, touching and inspiring coming-of-age tale about a girl who cares too much. It also deals with dark issues, like terminal illnesses, depression and suicide. Harper’s journey is sad and painful, but it is also sprinkled with hope. I love the spiritual aspect of the book. It made it more enjoyable. The downsides? The writing is a little stilted. Too much action, not enough stream of consciousness. I found a good quote (the one above), one of a few. I’m all for a gripping plot, but I’m a sucker for beautiful and lyrical writing. All in all, I enjoyed this book, and I give it four out of five dark roast coffees.

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I loved the characters in this book. Each with their own set of quirks that made them really unique and different from what is normally in books now. I did, however, feel that Harper was a bit immature. I loved the relationships Harper had with the people around her. I also enjoyed the fact that this was a book that was easy to get into and I read it rather quickly, thanks to the style of writing. I think this deserves five out of five stars.

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Down in the Belly of the Whale took me right back to my high school years! Harper, our heroine, reminds me of my best high school friend with her expansive vocabulary and love of work play, and I adore the way Harper reflects upon her experiences. She is honest, relatable, and so dang funny. Kelley Kay Bowles tackles some serious issues in this novel, yet each difficult situation leaves Harper and the people she cares about closer, stronger, and more confident in their ability to handle all that life can throw at you with grit, humor, and grace.

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Review will be posted to https://thebaronessofbooks.weebly.com/ and my Goodreads profile on April 29th, 2018 **Thank you to Netgalley and Aionios Books for providing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.** Down in the Belly of the Whale is sweet, thoughtful, funny, and it taught me something, as all good books should do. I’d like to acknowledge the care Bowles put into writing this book. I won’t spoil anything, but as YA authors often do, she took a hard topic, one not often written about for teens, and made it accessible and teachable. A lot of YA deals with the dramatic and shocking aspects of mental illness and the culture surrounding it, but this book cuts to the bone of the issue, tackling the reality of many families’ situations regarding depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts with respect. I liked the plot, I think it was very well paced, and definitely well planned. The ending did feel a bit sudden, but I think I was enjoying myself so much I forgot the book had to end! This book actually features supportive, loving parents, instead of sending them away with a mysterious excuse and leaving the protags to figure things out, and I think that's positive and important! Harper’s parents and her uncle are there for her, to help her and Cora through the events in the story, and I think it’s a good reminder that not all teens have to have their experiences alone. Parents are helpful, and letting teens think they must deal with problems alone is a problem in and of itself. My biggest problem was fairly minor, and didn’t really prevent me from enjoying the book. At times, I felt like Harper’s voice was a bit young. She was supposed to be in high school, and the issues discussed were very heavy and serious, but because of the writing style, she read more as a middle-schooler to me. The fact that she wasn’t surprised me when I found out part way through that she and Cora, her best friend, were in high school. She did grow as a character, and she did gain self-confidence, which I loved, but at the end, she still read as young to me. Because of this, I was a bit put off by the romance, but nevertheless, it was cute. ​ In the grand scheme of things, I liked many elements of this story, which earn it 4 stars in my heart. Go forth and read!

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Thank you, Kelley Kay Bowles! “Down in the Belly of the Whale” offers a refreshing take on today’s heroine! In this 21st century, where there is so much drama and so much angst eating at the hearts of our young adult population, it’s nice to read about a quirky and upbeat character, who can inspire a fresh perspective on tomorrow, despite the challenges of today.. Bowles presents some very real and ever-present issues and demonstrates that things don’t always happen as we would wish and there aren’t always clear explanations to things that perplex us. Harper, an ultimate empath (right down to her knees!) takes these quandaries in stride and still has hope and the quirky, contagious strength to move forward..

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I got a copy from NetGalley and Aionios Books, I am very grateful but please know that all opinions are my own. “Harper Southwood is a teenage girl who can sense when people will get sick—but so what? She can’t predict her best friend’s depression or her mother’s impending health crisis. Being helpful is all Harper ever wanted, but she feels helpless in the face of real adversity. Now, she’s got a chance to summon her courage and use her wits to fight for justice. Laugh and cry along with this irrepressible, high-spirited teen in her journey of self-discovery, as she learns that compassion and internal strength are her real gifts, her true superpower.” Down in the Belly of the Whale was such a good read, it was touching without really trying. I initially had a problem with Harper being a little self absorbed, but I realized that she wasn’t… I was just in her mind, and that’s what makes it relatable. I love the characters, especially Harper’s family, but I hoped Cora (Harper’s BFF) was there more. The writing was engaging to make me not stop reading. I feel like some of the issues in the book were not discussed so much, which I hoped it was. I mean seriously I wouldn’t mind more pages. They’re viewed from an outsider’s view so I understand if we don’t get to know more. Harper Southwood is a great character with great development in the end. 4 out of 5 stars.

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This is a rare time that I feel I need to give four stars even though I never got that into the book. Harper has the perfect family and that's why she's found out she's a changeling, a troll, because how could she be part of that family? And she has a very useless superpower of knowing when people are about to get sick. That's it, she can't do anything to prevent it, she simply feels in her something is wrong. And that's how she knew her best friend was cutting herself. And even that seems to be failing because her mother has something the doctors haven't found out and she never felt it (and this one seems to come from the writer's personal experience. This book is deep. It is told in a very light way, I even wondered if it wasn't children's fiction, but it goes deeper and deeper. I guess the title makes sense. So why did I say I didn't get into it? I think the writing is sometimes to prolix, I'm sure the author meant something by it but it didn't get through to me. And even though that made it really seem like the narrator was a teenager—I so used to write like that back then!—, during the dialogues, Harper and her friend never sounded legitimately like teenagers. Still, the story was beautiful, well researched, well written. The kind of story I think YA should have more, because it's genuinely good. I know, it's weird that I'm saying this when I personally didn't enjoy it so much. But I repeat the problem was me and not the book. In other words, this book won't please everyone, it's not a light read even though it may seem so. The characters has layers and some get quite dark. I also recommend this for book clubs. Oh, there's so much you can discuss! One thing that bothered me the whole book and that took way too long for the parents to tackle on was this belief Harper has that she isn't part of her own family. How many other teenagers don't think like that in different degrees? And there's more I don't want to spoil anyone about. This is a beautiful book. (Run date for this review is May 5th)

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I liked this story very much and read very quickly, as a page turner. I was especially entranced by the young narrator voice, the best facet of the book: Harper sounds like a very credible gifted teenager, clever and funny, in a self deprecating kind of way, and a bubbling mind, which frequently let her to obsess about some thing or another. She’s smart and wise, but can also be very short sighted in some situations (her infatuation with a boy based only on his looks for instance), marking her as still a very young person, and never an adult. The other characters weren’t quite as good, but only for lack of correct exposition: at the exception of the mother, a strong figure with a delightful personality, most characters felt like not really stereotypical, but left at a first draft. Not because of a lack of skill, but more because of the choice of telling about a lot of things at the same time. In general, even if I really appreciated the story and am looking forward reading the next author’s book, I had the impression of overabundance of themes used, at their disadvantage. I applaud the author’s efforts to developed some strong situations for her heroin, but I couldn’t help thinking that it was too much for the book. In the end it felt a little more pedagogical than naturally included in the story. Another point that felt a bit discordant was the funny and light beginning which suddenly sank in dark reality facts. Harper’s arch voice was suddenly lost, of course, she wouldn’t keep her sparkling tone, and I felt like jumping from one book to another one at full speed… All in all I’m just quibbling, as usual, because contemporary YA book is my favourite, and I’m always spliting hairs about tiny details… shame on me! To conclude I warmly recommend this book, for its endearing heroin and its story which doesn’t shy to show difficult realities and explains how the right attitude can make a real difference.

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I received a free copy of this from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I could tell by the description of this book that I wanted to read it. What I couldn't tell is just how much. I thought this was a great book with a lot of "meat" to it. It talked about serious topics but didn't seem overdone. I really liked Harper and thought she was a great character. This is not a feel good book because of the serious topics, but it does make you feel.

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