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Being Fishkill

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  445 ratings  ·  123 reviews
Fishkill Carmel fends for herself, with her fists if need be — until a thwarted lunch theft introduces her to strange, sunny Duck-Duck and a chance for a new start.

Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill beco
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Candlewick Press
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Average rating 4.37  · 
Rating details
 ·  445 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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Cristina Monica
What I like about this book is that it doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It keeps it real; it says it like it is; it doesn’t hold the bad back. But at the same time, it doesn’t dwell on depressive thoughts, because Fishkill knows she has to move forward.

She still wonders about her past, now more than ever, since her mother came back into her life, but she wonders about it more so she can reflect on it than bury herself in it. She’s a brave kid. She grew up in a harsh familial environment with a racist
S.M. Parker
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This novel is phenomenal. BEYOND phenomenal.

I fell in love with the fierce 12-year-old Fishkill on page one and my love for her never dissipated. Even now, long after I’ve closed the book, Fishkill stays with me. She is vibrant and strong and so full of life. She is unlike any other character I’ve met in a book and for that reason alone you should pick up this debut. There are a million reasons why you won’t be able to put it down.

Lehrer’s debut novel is an intricately woven tale of rural pove
Bridget Hodder
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
BEING FISHKILL is powerful, moving, sometimes harrowing, and always deeply felt, with language so beautiful that it comes as no surprise when you learn the author is also a well-respected poet.

This is a novel I've heard buzz about for years, and it's published by Candlewick. So I was a little nervous when I received my ARC of it at last, not sure anything could live up to my expectations for it.

But it far exceeded my expectations. In fact, the story, the characters, the way it made me feel, we
Jeff Zentner
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Y'all, this book is absolutely extraordinary. So beautiful and real and gritty and wrenching and filled with heart and humor. If you liked THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN or KIDS OF APPETITE, I think you'll like this.
Linda Williams Jackson
Apr 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’ll start this review off with a conversation I had with the author via Twitter DM’ing:

ME: Your book is something special.

AUTHOR: Did you finish?

ME: Just read the last word. Gosh. I have all the feels. I don't want to do anything else today. I just want to sit here and hold the book. But I can't. :(

AUTHOR: Aww - at least you're not like a good half of my readers who say they will never forgive me ;)

ME: Well, I was a little upset. But you really redeemed yourself with the ending. Plus, I acciden
Elly Swartz
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer, equal parts heart warming and heart breaking. A deeply moving story of one girl’s journey to finding family, love and acceptance. Lehrer does an exceptional job exploring the frailty of heart and creating characters we come to love. Deeply. Fishkill and Duck-Duck are truly unique. This is a hauntingly beautiful story. Highly recommend.

I was given an arc for my honest review.
Christine Grecsek
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Being Fishkill left me utterly shattered at a rest area on Interstate 84 in New York, ironically not far from the Carmel/Fishkill exit (fortunately my partner was driving.)

Fishkill, Duck-Duck, Molly - the vivid characters Ruth Lehrer has created - are now a part of me too and I'll always be grateful to Ruth for the introduction.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't know I haven't written a review for this one considering it is one of those stories that really touch me. The story is really moving, realistic and doesn't sugarcoat anything. It is so lovely and rich and also so very painful. You'll see hard truth and it utterly wrecked me. The writing was so beautiful and lovely. The way the writer told the story was beyond perfect. I laugh and I cried(well angry too!). It was so very painful reading it but it's what we need to see. It's the truth abo ...more
Margot Harrison
You know an author has a strong, authentic voice when her 12-year-old narrator starts giving you flashbacks to being 12 years old, dredging up feelings and experiences you'd forgotten.

BEING FISHKILL made me feel like I was back in a rural New England middle school, surrounded by poverty and prejudice that people took for granted. It also reminded me of a book that wrecked me when I was that age, a book that made me happy and then made me cry for hours. (Naming that book might be a spoiler, so le
Kathy MacMillan
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fishkill Carmel is a tough-as-nails heroine with a desperate secret. Christine Farina, better known as Duck-Duck, is the quirky idealist who sees through the tough façade and appoints herself Fishkill’s new best friend. What follows is a tale full of poignant moments of friendship, exploring everything from the stirrings of sexual attraction between the two girls, to the nuances of girl bullying, to the ways the system fails those without resources. What I loved most about this book is that it t ...more
Well, that went ahead and ripped my heart clean out of my chest. Definitely a recommended read for a book with rural poverty. There are a few things I felt were left a little like open-ended mysteries, but they felt true to what the character would know/be able to access. Really interesting to read a YA that is definitely a YA but with a 12-13yo protag, especially since she's sort of exploring her sexuality without even really seeming to realize that's what she's doing. I would so love to check ...more
Monica Tesler
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Being Fishikill is a powerful, devastating, masterful book. I finished it last week, and I'm still picking myself up in pieces.
Heidi Heilig
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm devastated and uplifted and still teary eyed.

This beautiful debut, following the story of a life changing first-love/friendship between twelve year olds Fishkill and Duck-Duck, weaves a delicate poetry around the harsh realities of poverty, family, the things you lose and find as you grow up. I've been waiting to read this book for nearly two years and it was worth every second.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: love
my whole heart hurts
kelly {BookCrushin}
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'll write a full review soon but I need to heal after finishing this one. It's one of those books that just hurts but it heals you as well.

Update Full Review on BookCrushin
Katy Upperman
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh my gosh, this is such an affecting novel; I can’t imagine myself ever forgetting its remarkable characters. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I began reading, but as I became immersed in the story of Fishkill, a twelve-year-old girl from a tragically abusive and neglectful family, her friend, Duck-Duck, and Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, I felt simultaneously heartbroken and hopeful. Being Fishkill is about chosen family and resilience — of children in particular. It will devastat ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an astounding debut!

The world Ruth Lehrer has created here is so vibrant it immediately envelops the reader. Every word contributes. Every sentence builds. BEING FISHKILL is a story full of hard truths and hard people living hard lives. It's simultaneously a punch to the gut and a kiss.

In this story about a young girl named Carmel Fishkill who decides to become Fishkill Carmel instead, Lehrer explores what defines family, and how we can either choose to let our families define us or let the
Corabel Shofner
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: swanky-17s
Being Fishkill. With a name like that I'm grabbing for the book.
My friend handed me the ARC saying this book will break your heart and then put it back together. She was so right.
The story of Fishkill and Duck Duck unfolds logically and emotionally. They are young women you know and want to know better. You care about them. And you understand how they care about each other. Some mothers are walking tragedies like Keely and others are angels like Molly. We have to live on this earth with both.
Amy Giles
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Never has a book made me laugh and cry so hard, page after page, from beginning to the end. Fishkill and Duck-Duck (Duk-Duk) are two of my favorite book people: Fishkill, who is TOO strong and resilient for her own good, and Duck-Duck, with her hilarious grasp of the legal system. The writing is poetic (no wonder, the author is a poet), and the description of food made me yearn for waffle and jam for lunch, roast chicken, and Yodels, the one thing Fishkill knows she’ll need to survive. I love ho ...more
Jennifer Fenn
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“I got the re-carnation part of a butterfly’s life, but it had always seemed to me like they changed in the wrong direction. Butterflies are pretty and have wings, which is nice, but caterpillars are tougher.”

Ruth Lehrer has created a cast of incredibly authentic, memorable characters in “Being Fishkill,” an affecting middle-grade novel about the definition of family. Fishkill is a 7th grader facing heartbreaking neglect and poverty. She’s a survivor, living on her own, stealing food and scrapi
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-kids
I really liked this book. I thought it would be sad and depressing but it wasn't. This is a story of girl friends, mothers and daughters. The main character, Fishkill, is alone and alienated from her mother. She ends up making a friend who calls herself Duck-Duck, but is really named Chrissy and is quirky and feminine and close to her mother as Fishkill is not. Adventures ensue. An interesting read.
Wendy MacKnight
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-reads
What a jewel of a novel. There are rare novels where the characters crawl into your heart and won't let go. Fishkill Carmel is such a character. A story of finding your real family and a place in a world that doesn't concern itself with poor children. This novel is sheer poetry and Ruth Lehrer's command of language and characters is breathtaking. Unforgettable.
Kali Wallace
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely and powerful book with a breathtakingly honest portrayal of growing up young and angry and scared in a setting of extreme rural poverty, with a heartbreaking look at friendship and family and the places where they overlap.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been anxiously awaiting Lehrer's debut novel, Being Fishkill, and having just finished it, it was worth the wait. Honest, gritty and moving, this is the story of Fishkill Carmel, whose mother named her after a New York highway sign they pass as she gives birth to her. Originally named Carmel, Fishkill decides to reinvent herself - to become tougher and more dangerous so that no one can hurt her. Then she meets Duck-Duck, and Duck-Duck's mom, Molly, and finds her life changed.

This book wa
Victoria Coe
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

BEING FISHKILL by Ruth Lehrer is an achingly gorgeous, mind-blowing book about an unforgettable character - make that *several* unforgettable characters. Fishkill and Duck-Duck stole my heart from the first chapter and I was completely lost in their story. I rode past my subway stop more than once during the day and a half I spent engrossed in this beautiful book.

Aside from tugging on my heartstrings, BEING FISHKILL
Carrie Firestone
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Being Fishkill was a beautiful, stunning, heart-wrenching book. I can't get it out of my head. There are so many things that made this book unforgettable, but it was the detailed portrayal of one family's struggle to survive in abject poverty that I will carry with me. We all know Fishkill Carmels. We all know mothers who haven't learned how to mother. And men who are cruel to their core. And people like Molly who refuse to let the jaded world color their capacity to love. We know these people. ...more
Kim Bongiorno
Fishkill is a girl who knows exactly how to navigate her world. She doesn't take many chances, because she understands the rules. Then--suddenly--she doesn't. That's when things get even more interesting. And beautiful. And heartbreaking. And wonderful. No matter your age, don't miss out on the chance to get to know her.

Also: don't make the mistake I did and read any more reviews of this book! I accidentally came across a BIG spoiler in a two-line summary of the book in a magazine, and think it'
Kathleen Glasgow
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is deeply beautiful and raw. An excellent coming-of-age that isn't afraid to tackle issues of class, I think it will spark great conversation between students and teachers and would make a great choice for book clubs. Lehrer has crafted a timely, haunting, and resonant book about a girl struggling to survive her perilous circumstances. Buried within Fishkill's story is also the story of a friendship that will tug at your heart.
Cat Manning
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is no review I could write that would serve any kind of justice to how good this book really is.
It's a powerfully emotional work of art. The kind of story you think about and remember long after you finish. Wow, just, wow. A definitely, got to do it, must read book.
Being Fishkill is... a lot. It's like if Dorothy Allison wrote Bridge to Terabithia. ...more
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Ruth Lehrer is a writer and sign language interpreter living in western Massachusetts. Her fiction and poetry have been published in journals such as Jubilat, Lilith, and Trivia: Voices of Feminism. She is the author of the young adult novel BEING FISHKILL (Candlewick, 2017) and the poetry chapbook, TIGER LAUGHS WHEN YOU PUSH (Headmistress Press.) She can be found at

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