Saturday, September 3, 2011
Stick by Andrew Smith
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.
It read like the Perks of Being a Wallflower but had me reeling the same way I did with Smith's Marburry Lens after that kidnap-grope scene. This one had me angry and hurting for all of them, all at once... particularly the first half. The jump into the second half had me reeling for other reasons though. Specifically, where had Dahlia been all their lives? That alone had me a little bi more angry. To think of all the things they'd gone through with such horrible people! When all the while she was there... or could have been there!
Stick sounds a lot like the lead in Perks of Being a Wallflower. Both were innocent, clueless and naive until I reminded myself that he was just thirteen. I kept having to recall that STICK was just THIRTEEN. And like in Perks, I found myself asking, is this kid for real? Did he really have no clue as to what was what and or what went where? Perhaps his naivette was a product of how he was brought up... perhaps not, but he simply read young to me, much younger than a purported thirteen. And talk of his upbringing made me want to PUNCH somebody, specifically his parents! It's this aspect that had me reeling. As I said, there's a moment in it that struck me the same way that kidnap grope scene in Marbury did: complete and utter shock then disgust. Suffice to say, it brought out a lot of emotions in me, not all of them positive.
The shining moments in this sad painful read are his relationships~ with his brother and his peers. Still, his relationship with his brother gave me pause. He idolized his brother; in truth they idolized each other. But it's a relationship that worried me a little too. One could not leave for fear of the other's future while the other could not man up because the elder was always there. So I worried for them, and hurt for them. And before things did get better, things got worse.
Read this with the knowledge that it isn't easy, but given a voice like Stick's that was sometimes improbabaly innoccent, well, I had to see it through.