On Stick by Andrew Smith
Stick came out today, a new novel by Andrew Smith, the author of Ghost Medicine, In the Path of Falling Objects, and The Marbury Lens. These are three of my favorite books, each for different reasons but more than anything they are three books about the relationships young men have with each other, and more specifically, brothers. Stick is similar in that it explores this territory, Andrew Smith territory, but it is, like each of Andrew’s other books, different.
Synopsis from Amazon: 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.
This is a subtle book beautifully written, sensitive, and innocent. But what I like more than anything are two things Andrew does: 1) His uncanny ability to write from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Stick. It is his trademark as a writer – to be able to get inside the heads of these protagonists. There are no wrong turns in the story because Stick does what he needs to – nothing more and nothing less. This is an incredible feat of writing. The second thing that Andrew does that makes him stand out is write beautiful prose. Some writers write pretty words but you notice them because they write that way for the sake of writing that way. Andrew crafts every sentence and every sentence sings as part of a larger tapestry that is his novel. His prose seems effortless and his narrative flows without a hitch because of it. And this is not just the way he writes Stick’s thoughts, jumbled up sometimes and filled with holes another as if the words bang around inside and can’t exit – an ingenious technique he uses to show how Stick hears and perceives the world.
Here’s one of my favorites: “And none of what happened to us would ever make sense if I didn’t let the biggest monsters that swarm in my head come up and reveal their teeth there is no love in our house only rules.” When you read the context for this it will blow you away. In the land of realistic fiction for young adults, Andrew Smith is king.