Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree

Shay Character Analysis

Shay is the class bully. She's wealthy and is always surrounded by Jessica and a number of other girls whom Ally just refers to as Shay's followers. All of these girls wear friendship bracelets, which Ally is jealous of and sees as proof that they all care about each other. Because of Ally's jealousy in this regard, Shay is able to draw Ally into her bullying on occasion. Shay's preferred angle for her bullying is to tear down her classmates for their financial status, which in most cases seems to be much lower than her own. She also attacks classmates for being different or "freaks." After Mr. Daniels takes away Shay's recess for bullying Oliver, Shay becomes very sneaky about her bullying. This makes it harder for teachers to stop, though by that point, Mr. Daniels has already given his other students tools that empower them to stand up to Shay themselves. Eventually, Ally learns that Shay actually sells the friendship bracelets to her friends, which shows Ally that Shay doesn't actually have friends—she just scares others into following her. After this, Shay's power gradually disappears. Though she tries to bully her classmates into first not running against her for class president and then into voting for her, Ally wins the election. After Shay's loss, Ally learns that Shay is a bully because Shay's mom is also cruel and obsessed with being the best. In the weeks that follow, Jessica and the rest of Shay's followers begin to abandon her and even leave their friendship bracelets on Shay's desk. Though Ally tries to approach Shay and reach out kindly, Shay rejects the attempt and chooses to continue acting meanly.

Shay Quotes in Fish in a Tree

The Fish in a Tree quotes below are all either spoken by Shay or refer to Shay. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Fish in a Tree published in 2015.
Chapter 11 Quotes

Besides that, Shay, Jessica, and some other girls all have these woven friendship bracelets. And I have never had the kind of friends who have matching bracelets, but I have always wanted them. It's like the bracelet tells the world that the person wearing it has someone who cares about them.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Shay, Jessica
Related Symbols: Friendship Bracelets
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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I'm not perfect, but at least I'm not mean.

And then my heart sinks, because I realize that I just was.

I guess I did it because I was lonely. Now I know that there are worse things than being lonely.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Albert, Shay, Jessica
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 23 Quotes

Even when I do something right, I feel like I've done something wrong. If I were a coin, I'd be a wooden nickel.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels, Shay
Related Symbols: Coins
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 24 Quotes

“I laugh. “Uh, no, thanks. I'd rather wear handcuffs.”

I can't believe Shay charges her friends for something that's supposed to stand for loyalty and friendship. And I can't believe they paid.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Shay, Jessica
Related Symbols: Friendship Bracelets
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 37 Quotes

Shay sounds like someone completely different. The Shay I know, always so quick to pick a fight, now has a voice that sounds like a kindergartener.

“Sorry, Mama.” She brushes a tear from her cheek.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Shay (speaker), Shay's Mom
Page Number: 209-10
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 48 Quotes

And looking around the room, I remember thinking that my reading differences were like dragging a concrete block around every day, and how I felt sorry for myself. Now I realize that everyone has their own blocks to drag around. And they all feel heavy.

Related Characters: Ally (speaker), Mr. Daniels, Shay, Oliver
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Shay Character Timeline in Fish in a Tree

The timeline below shows where the character Shay appears in Fish in a Tree. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: In Trouble Again
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...say the same thing if Ally were going to climb a tree using her teeth. Shay groans that Ally should act normally, Oliver throws himself on his desk laughing, and Albert,... (full context)
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...Mrs. Hall that the scribbles were there when she sat down. Kids start laughing and Shay whispers loudly that Ally is a freak. Mrs. Hall sends Ally to the office but... (full context)
Chapter 2: Yellow Card
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...at the card and then motions for Ally to follow her out of the room. Shay gets up to look at the card, laughs, and says that Ally gets dumber every... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Shay and Jessica laugh and ignore Mrs. Hall's admonitions while Ally wonders why she isn't used... (full context)
Chapter 4: Bird in a Cage
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Ally hears Shay and Jessica come into the restaurant. Shay feigns concern that Ally didn't return to class,... (full context)
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
While Mom is in the kitchen, Jessica and Shay laugh that Ally's mom is a waitress. Shay says that Ally could be a waitress... (full context)
Chapter 7: No Grandpas Here
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...in front of her with his hand held out. He introduces himself to her, causing Shay, Jessica, and their friends to laugh and say that he must not know about Ally.... (full context)
Chapter 9: Bag Full of Nothing
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
...class about it. Ally considered bringing a can of dirt or a bag of nothing. Shay goes first and talks about her horse. Jessica shows the class a picture of Shay,... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...says is a mixture of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, and drinks it. Shay whispers meanly with Jessica, and Ally explains that Shay has gotten sneakier about being mean... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Keisha goes next and takes out a homemade cupcake. Shay whispers that the cupcake isn't decorated, and cupcakes aren't that cool, but Mr. Daniels tells... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...wooden blocks and explains that the crackers are made of shrimp and fish bones. When Shay imperiously says that her family prefers lobster, Albert says that lobster used to be served... (full context)
Chapter 11: Scrambled Egg
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
At lunch, Shay and Jessica invite Ally to sit with them. Ally doesn't want to, but she's tired... (full context)
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...understand why; Albert is dressed in his usual uniform of jeans and the Flint t-shirt. Shay finally points to Albert's sneakers, which Albert cut the backs out of. Shay and Jessica... (full context)
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Shay tells Albert that he doesn't have to care about his appearance, but everyone who has... (full context)
Chapter 12: What's Your Problem, Albert?
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
...night, Mom opens Ally's bedroom door to check on her. Ally explains how Jessica and Shay roped her into making fun of Albert and says she feels awful. Mom tells Ally... (full context)
Chapter 13: Trouble with Flowers
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...but doesn't like the music teacher, Mrs. Muldoon, because she's prone to blowing up. Backstage, Shay makes fun of Albert's ill-fitting clothes. Keisha stands up for Albert, but Shay insists some... (full context)
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
...accuses her of being disrespectful, and says Keisha will be the only girl without flowers. Shay snidely says that people get what they deserve, and Ally hears Keisha sniff. She watches... (full context)
Chapter 15: Ungreased Gears
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...snaps at Max when he seems jealous, and Oliver flails and says, "Me want cupcake!" Shay calls Oliver a freak and says that Cookie Monster talks like that, but Oliver gets... (full context)
Chapter 17: Misfit Lunch
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
...Star Trek and the special effects are pathetic. Albert looks horrified, but they're interrupted as Shay and Jessica walk by and make a joke about the Island of Misfit Toys. Keisha... (full context)
Chapter 19: Not-So-Sweet Secret
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
...to engage Albert in a conversation about why he likes science. Albert asks Ally why Shay is so mean to her in particular. Keisha also wants to know. (full context)
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Hesitantly, Ally says that she won the art award last year, which made Shay angry. And on Ally's second day at school, Ally had to sit next to Shay... (full context)
Chapter 20: Is This a Good Thing?
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...next to them. The lady is shocked and her face is funny—until Ally realizes that Shay is also in the car. (full context)
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
The next day at school, Shay waits until Mr. Daniels walks into the hallway before whispering loudly to Jessica that yesterday,... (full context)
Chapter 21: Butterfly Wishes
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
In the middle of a brainstorming session for a community service project, Shay raises her hand and announces that she's inviting everyone to her birthday party so no... (full context)
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Mom makes Ally agree to go to Shay's party, even though Shay is mean and neither Albert nor Keisha are going. At lunch... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Ally arrives at the Butterfly Gardens for Shay's party. She notices girls from other classrooms as well as Jessica, all of whom are... (full context)
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
...opens her hand and the butterfly flies to the ground. The employee is upset, and Shay says that Ally likely killed it by touching its wings. Ally tries to explain about... (full context)
Chapter 22: No Way to Treat a Queen
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Later at lunch, Shay compliments Albert's Flint shirt and explains that she got a new sweater that's purple, the... (full context)
Chapter 23: Words That Breathe
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
...and feels like she has to leave, so she asks to go to the bathroom. Shay shakes her head and though she says nothing, Ally knows what she would say. Ally... (full context)
Chapter 24: Imaginary Hero
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...He even asks Suki for her opinion, but keeps talking and never lets her answer. Shay whispers meanly that they don't need to listen to Oliver's thoughts, but Oliver gravely says... (full context)
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
...spins the wheel and as the colors blur, they turn white. Everyone, even Jessica and Shay, say it's cool. Oliver asks if Ally is going to give the color wheel away... (full context)
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
As Ally sits down, she hears Jessica ask Shay for another friendship bracelet. Ally pretends not to listen as Shay says that she has... (full context)
Chapter 25: Celebration or Devastation?
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...in the first ever Fantastico Poetry Award. Ally hopes that Albert will win and watches Shay. As Mr. Daniels begins to announce the award, Ally sees Shay look surprised and then... (full context)
Chapter 26: Stalling
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...she, Ally, and Albert don't fit in, but it's silly to want to be like Shay and fit in with her group. Ally finally comes out of the stall and thanks... (full context)
Chapter 29: Fish in a Tree
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...acorns. Oliver and Max throw acorns at a tree, Ally picks one up too, and Shay laughs at Albert when Mr. Daniels isn't looking. Ally tells her not to, so Shay... (full context)
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Ally ends up in a group with Albert and Shay and the guide takes them through the house. They see a bedroom and Albert can... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...cap and explains that bad students used to wear them and stand in corners. As Shay giggles and shows her friends her slate, Ally catches sight of it—she drew a head... (full context)
Chapter 32: Screen Time
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
...Mom seems ready to cry as Ally tells Dad about Mr. Daniels, Ally, Keisha, and Shay. Then, Ally says goodbye and Travis has his turn. Travis isn't as happy as Ally;... (full context)
Chapter 35: A Picture is Worth a Gazillion Words
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...the sub says that she can draw instead of write in response to the prompt. Shay snidely says that after Ally colors, she can have naptime. The sub doesn't stop Shay... (full context)
Chapter 36: In the Game of Life...
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...king; valuable, but very slow. Ally is the knight, which moves in an L shape. Shay is a queen, given her ability to scare others. Ally thinks that dealing with Shay... (full context)
Chapter 37: A Chicken, a Wolf, and a Problem
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...own. Ally asks to go into the hallway to escape the noise, though Jessica and Shay soon join her. They think the puzzle is dumb. Shay holds up signs for Ally... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Shay moves closer, tells Ally that she's stupid, and says that Mr. Daniels is only nice... (full context)
Chapter 38: Loser for President
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Mr. Daniels asks the students if they have nominations for class president. Jessica nominates Shay and no one else is willing to run, given that Shay has made it clear... (full context)
Chapter 39: To-Shay
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...made that reads, "Ally is your ally." He explains that Ally's name is a homonym. Shay waltzes by and says that at least Ally will get three votes, but Ally thinks... (full context)
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Albert and Keisha give Ally one more pep talk and then, Mr. Daniels calls Shay to give her speech. Shay's campaign promises are impossible, like bigger lockers and extra recess,... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Mr. Daniels says it's time for the vote and passes out scraps of paper. When Shay says that other classes are voting by raising hands and secret voting isn't fair, Mr.... (full context)
 Chapter 40: Tears of Different Kinds
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...President all day. Ally is happy until the end of the day, when she hears Shay's mom berating Shay for losing. Shay cries and sounds like a small child. Ally feels... (full context)
Chapter 41: Not-So-Secret Letter
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...and says he wants to be able to bring candy for snacks. Later, Ally hears Shay saying that if she'd been elected, she would've started an equestrian club. Ally feels bad... (full context)
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
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As Ally prepares to board her bus, Shay and Jessica stomp over and ask if Ally got the letter. Ally can't figure out... (full context)
Chapter 42: The Gifts of No Excuses, Scotch Tape, and Antibiotics
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
...by asking students to tell him what they'd like to have an unlimited amount of. Shay says she'd choose money, but Albert says he'd have antibiotics. He says that he could... (full context)
Teaching, Mentoring, and Trust Theme Icon
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
...to be more like everyone else, but adds that she wouldn't want to act like Shay or Jessica. (full context)
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Suddenly, Oliver starts screaming that Shay is an ant murderer for stepping on an ant, saying she had no right to... (full context)
Chapter 43: Set the World on Fire
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...Mr. Daniels is always telling them to do. Albert almost smiles, and Ally yells to Shay that if she teases one of them, she teases all of them. They laugh at... (full context)
Chapter 44: Tales of a Sixth Grade Something
Dyslexia, Intelligence, and Learning Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...surprised that Ally looks so happy to go to school on a Monday. At school, Shay asks how Ally made a kitchen scene with a working light. Oliver grabs for the... (full context)
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Max walks over to see what's going on, and Shay points out that Ally is making stuff up about the book she read. Ally explains... (full context)
Chapter 48: Oliver's Idea of Lucky
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Later, on the playground, Shay comes over and asks if Ally sees letter backwards. Ally now feels proud of her... (full context)
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
Shay stomps off, but her followers only follow her halfheartedly. Jessica even jogs back and tells... (full context)
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...from one of her blocks because Ally is amazing and she admires her. Ally hears Shay sounding unhappy across the room. She looks and sees a pile of friendship bracelets on... (full context)
Chapter 49: I See the Light
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During break time, Ally watches her classmates. They're all occupied except for Shay, who's just sitting and watching. Oliver goes around and asks everyone to put their arms... (full context)
Chapter 51: C-O-U-R-A-GEnius
Identity and Self-Esteem Theme Icon
Bullying, Friendship, and Social Status Theme Icon
...Mr. Daniels announces that Ally is the student of the month and the class applauds. Shay says something that Ally can't hear, but Jessica tells Shay to stop. (full context)