Published by Feiwel and Friends on 10/11/11
Genres: Tough Issues
Source: The Smashtastic Library
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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.
Interest in Book
Because Andrew Smith is awesome? Heh. Ok, you need more than that. I get it. Well, I’m a huge fan. I think Andrew’s imagination is incredible and his way of telling a story is exciting, personal and poignant. It was no different with Stick, a pretty powerful story about a teenage boy trying to accept himself as is, and the strong bond between brothers.
Characters and World-Building
The world-building occurs within Stick, for the most part, as he struggles with his deformity and accepting that he is unique in other aspects of life, as well. He lives with his abusive parents and older brother, Bosten, out in the boonies. Stick and Bosten are very close, as they’ve had to support each other through the abuse and lack of support from their parents. They pal around and enjoy their time away from their parents as much as possible. They trust each other, which is vastly important in their world. Stick’s best-friend, Emily, makes no issues about Stick’s deformity and treats him normal, whatever normal is. In a nutshell, Bosten and Emily mean the world to Stick and represent stability and unconditional love. It’s obvious that Stick is beginning to develop more-than-friendly feelings for Emily, but his relationship with her remains so innocent. There is one scene they have together that could have led to a sexual encounter, but it was so simply beautiful and innocent. They were just spending time together and enjoying one another’s company. Society constructs how we view things and puts pressures on people regarding many topics. It’s amazing to see how people act when those societal messages are not present.
Stick’s parents are abusive and the reader is witness to some of the torturous, horrific experiences the boys endure. You are also slowly presented with other dysfunctional family dynamics that make your heart hurt. When Bosten’s father discovers that he is gay, Bosten knows he must leave if he is to survive. Stick sets out to find his brother, and refuses to let his brother self-destruct. For all the saving Bosten did for Stick throughout his childhood, Stick saves Bosten in a big way in the end. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the boys have an ally in which they can turn to. Someone who loves them unconditionally and steps up to the plate. This character made my heart sing with happiness. So selfless, so welcoming and trusting and compassionate.
In the beginning, Stick stays in the background, being the third wheel with his brother and friend. Slowly, Stick transforms. His life experiences fuel a fire. He becomes adventurous, sticks up for people he cares about. He remains non-judgmental and forgiving, regardless of his ugly past experiences. His growth was profound and it hits you like a ton of bricks.
Andrew Smith can tell a story! He used a really intriguing, creative way to convey Stick’s hearing issue. It was brilliant and I truly enjoyed how it added to the experience. Family seems to be a central theme in Andrew’s stories, especially strong bonds between brothers. I enjoy his perspective, as well as experiencing sibling bonds, as I grew up an only child. This book has heart, soul, pain, love. It’s full of ups and down, but in the end, the characters overcome personal odds in a big way.
I never understood what jocks did for boys other than make us follow rules. They were supposed to protect our balls, Mr. Lloyd explained, but I’d seen at least a hundred guys who wore jocks and got hit in the balls, and it always seemed to hurt just as bad as if they had their balls hanging out and fully exposed. I mean, a shot to the balls is a shot to the balls, pretty much no matter what you’re wearing.
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