Stick by Andrew Smith
Feiwel & Friends, October 11, 2011
Summary from Goodreads:
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.Oh, how I love Stark. He is so wise beyond his years in many ways, but in others, he's your typical teenage boy. These moments add some humor to this novel (my first by Smith, I'm ashamed to admit), and provide a respite from the heavy, heavy issues that make up the bulk of the story. "Abusive parents" isn't even the right term for Stark and Bosten's parents. WTF? How is it possible that two people can be as evil as Mom and Dad, but still be able to maintain a "normal" appearance in public? And how is it possible that Stark and Bosten think that the way they're treated is the norm? There's strict, and then there's PSYCHO, and it's not hard to guess where Mom and Dad are on this scale.
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.
Thank God for Aunt Dahlia, she is such a ray of California sunshine in the boys' otherwise utterly bleak and dreary world. She comes to them at just the right moment, and her appearance allows the boys to realize that their lives don't have to be miserable--everyone is entitled to happiness. That happiness is hard to come by, however, as Stark and Bosten show us.
It's Stark's (I, like Dahlia and his best friend, can only see him as Stark, not Stick) unwavering belief in his brother, and his hope that the pair can have a happy future, that keeps this novel from being an otherwise dark and bleak novel. Stark is his own little ray of sunshine; even though he can't see beyond his missing ear, most of the people in his life can recognize him for the beautiful boy he is.
Fans of darker realistic fiction will enjoy Stick. I am just in awe at the depths of this novel (and I have to seriously reconsider my Best of 2011 list).
Borrowed book from the library. I also had an eGalley from NetGalley.
Enjoy your reading!