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.

Add to Goodreads
You can find Andrew on his blog and Twitter


  1. I absolutely loved Stick as well. I'm really glad you liked this one! I felt that Stick could have been labeled as an "issue" book, but really it was about Stick and Bosten and being around those you love. Fantastic review, and I still can't get The Marbury Lens out of my head!

  2. Thank you so much for these very kind words. Here I am freaking out on the day before release. I will go hide now.

  3. I never read the Marbury Lens. It's been on my TBR forever and I just haven't gotten to it yet. This sounds really good. I need to add it. Thanks so much for putting it on my radar.

  4. Love it! Funny how you can adore everything a person writes, isn't it?

    I agree about the "bat shit genius" comment. Andrew is that, hands down.

    I'm stoked for more.

  5. I'm itching to read this book! I'm ashamed to admit I haven;t read anything by Smith yet, but everything I've read about this book just makes Stick sound better and better. Definitely putting this one on my TBR list.

    Awesome review!


  6. I read Tessa's review of this book and was positive I wanted to read it. Now I'm even more positive. I'd love to see the brotherly bond that keeps these two together.


  7. I haven't read the Marbury Lens yet, it has been on my TBR pile for a while now. After reading your tweets, this book really does sound fantastic. From your review it seems like it will take a lot out of me emotionally, so I will have to get ready for that...

  8. I'm really interested in this one. I've read the Marbury Lens and enjoyed it. I'm really curious to see how this measures up. Sounds like a good one!

  9. I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this book a few months ago, and I was so impressed! I own two other books by Smith now (The Marbury Lens and Ghost Medicine) but haven't had a chance to read them yet - I plan to read AT LEAST Marbury Lens before the end of the year.

    I completely agree with you about the realism of this book - that, coupled with the special relationship these brothers had- absolutely made the book for me. I loved it. Now to get my hands on a published copy...

  10. I've heard such great things about The Marbury Lens, and it was a fantastic read! Then I heard of Stick, and I wanted to read it too, but I never made the correlation that Andrew Smith wrote both!

    From your review, I can tell that it is going to be a very different experience reading Stick, but very worthwhile. The need for more GLBT YA literature that tells authentic stories is huge in this climate and I can;t wait to dive in!

  11. I cannot wait to get a chance to read this one. Great review...makes me want to read it even more. I am sure I will cry though, as I started to get choked up just reading this...

  12. I haven't yet read anything by Andrew Smith but have heard great things. You review really makes me want to read this one. I'm always looking for good contemporary/historical fiction about LGBT's. They can be really hard to find.