. Athena's Books: Stick...It Out in Stark Circumstances
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stick...It Out in Stark Circumstances

Stick by Andrew Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book. The voice, the struggle, the realness, the risk, the hope of Stark McClellan, the 13 year old hero of this book.

He does not give up on his brother even though Stark has often given up himself as ugly, as freak, as unwanted. He and his brother, Boston, have only known one life, a grim, prison-like life of abuse by their mother and father.

Until California. Where they get a chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity to visit their aunt during Easter week. Staying with her opens a new sense of hope and possibility for Stark and Bosten, if only for a few days. However, REALITY--their personal reality of hell, awaits for them in Washington.

By the end of the book, lets just say Stark starts a list of new words and new experiences to describe himself, and the list does not include ugly as number one.  He is changed. He is someone's hero even though he may not fully realize it yet.

But warning...this is not for middle school readers.  This is beyond PG-13 reading because of the subject matter and the frank look at a teen boy's life.  But is is more PG-13 than other YA books out there, for sure, that lean more towards the R rated.  But, I am a big fan of this book.  Just understand it is for older teens and adults.

Like I've said, I love this book, and I would use it in the classroom, and if I were using this book in the classroom, I would focus on the beginning chapters because the stylistic choices are exceptional.  I could spend like an entire period helping students dissect the whole first chapter to see what the writer is doing and how he is doing it through a 13 year old boy with significant issues.

The best part is the narrative risk taken by the author...he has cut it up, rearranged it...and I love it! Andrew Smith gets you to hear what Stark hears when others speak and what he hears when he is by himself. Brilliance!

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This is what I mean: (This is from the first page before chapter 1 gets going.)

                                                                     What would you hear
                                                            if my words could       make

                                                     And if                                  they
                                            what             music                   would I

                                                                                  write fore you?

What is going on?  Well, dear readers, all the white space and breaks makes you stop your reading--it slows down the flow and brings in silent gaps. Well, this is how Stark hears the world from one side of his head, the side of his head missing an ear. He was born this way, and Stark tells you right off the bat. He doesn't hold back what he is, what he thinks he is, and what happens at his house. He also tells you his 13. He also tells you he is a stick. 
Don't get all freaked out by the excerpt above! Stick is in regular novel form, with chapters and paragraphs and words, but the author takes the liberty to let us see and hear the world from Stark's perspective throughout the entire book. Trust me...it is lovely!


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