Oct 10, 2011

Review - Stick by Andrew Smith

Stick by Andrew Smith
October 11th, 2011 by Feiwel & Friends

Fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he’s tall and thin) is bullied for being “deformed” – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always there to defend Stick. But the boys can’t defend one another from their abusive parents.

When Stick realizes Bosten is gay, he knows that to survive his father's anger, Bosten must leave home. Stick has to find his brother, or he will never feel whole again. In his search, he will encounter good people, bad people, and people who are simply indifferent to kids from the wrong side of the tracks. But he never loses hope of finding love – and his brother.

Cruelty and ugliness is something Stark lives with daily. He thinks his deformity, a missing ear, is ugly but that is nothing when you compare it to his parents. Thirteen-year-old Stark and his older brother Bosten have been dealt the Piece of Crap Parent card. Their parents aren't just mean, they are downright cruel. Very early on we know the boys' parents aren't exactly Mike and Carol Brady. There are hints of abuse very early on and by page thirty-seven, we know that their father is militant and controlling that rules with an iron hand, and their mother is a sadistic side-kick.

You would think that child abuse is the central theme to STICK. I would have to argue and say no. STICK is a story about what two brothers will do to protect the other. Keep secrets, tell lies, physically go to blows to stand up for one another...the boys do it all and more. In a sense, they are all they have. They are each others support and only source of unconditional love. Real love. Without one, the other would not exist. When Bosten is outed as gay, not such a great thing in the mid 1970s, he makes his escape before his father gets a hold of him. Stick impatiently waits for his brother to return but after a few days, Stick makes a decision to go out on his own and find him. No easy task considering he thinks his brother made his way to California. He adds stealing a car on his list of things he would do for Bosten.

I went into reading this book with my eyes wide open. I was ready for the bat-shit genius that Smith is so famous for. The Marbury Lens stayed with me for months.... I was prepared for anything and everything Smith was going to through at me. *insert a pleasant sigh* I have to admit, STICK was an easier read for me. In fact, I flew through it in just a couple of hours. Yes, very sensitive and tough issues are addressed - child abuse, sexual abuse, homosexuality, bullying - but they were painted in a such a realistic light with authentic voices that the pages kept turning. I never once questioned a conversation, an action, or the thoughts of the characters. The parents are heartless, the brothers are brave, and there are even a few unsung heroes in the mix. Putting it simple, everything about this book worked. One of my favorites of the year.

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You can find Andrew on his blog and Twitter