Daven's Reviews > Stick

Stick by Andrew  Smith
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's review
Feb 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: ya-fiction
Read in March, 2012

4.5 / 5

A slowly captivating and very unusual YA novel. I have to say that I wouldn't merrily place a copy in any of my students' hands. Very gritty and rough in places, with language, sex, and painful domestic situations - all handled thoughtfully and meaningfully, though.

This is the story of 14-year-old Stark McClellan (who goes by Stick for most of the novel, and then ages into his given name by the novel's end). Born missing one ear, Stick is used to fighting -- fighting the double-takes, the questions, and fighting more dangerous demons: a noncommital mother, a dark, furtively abusive father, and eventually, murderous random violence. Stick and his only brother, Bosten, are buoyed by their deep, supportive love for each other, a bond that drives them to take jarring risks for each other's protection.

Much of the plot spins on the fact that Bosten is gay, and nurtures a secretive relationship with a best friend and football teammate. Their carelessness dominoes a series of damaging reactions by adults in close proximity. Stark stands strong and close to his brother as he is battered emotionally by far-less compassionate characters.

Glowing personalities do emerge. There's Emily, a wise and preternaturally mature classmate of Stark's. There's a moving cameo by a passing truck driver named Sutton Broussard, who literally goes out of his way to provide much needed care. And then there's Aunt Dahlia, an angel on earth, who frankly in her purity and unwavering goodness, almost is cast in cartoon form. But, in the end, I bought into her presence. I do believe in angels, after all.

I was ultimately affected in a meaningful way by this novel. It was not an instant immersion; perhaps the first half came across as fairly standard and a bit too frank, as if for effect. But eventually, I came to find Stark to be a fully-dimensional, wonderfully flawed, deeply feeling young man who, despite horrific experiences, still finds it within himself to wholly love the few in his life fully deserving. As the final pages turn, he finds a real name for the congenital defect which defines him to the shallow, he finds strength in his true name (thus abandoning the literal fragility of his nickname), and above all, he finds the power to transcend great tragedy and abuse in order to save those he loves, as well as himself.

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03/11/2012 page 80
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