Monday, May 20, 2013

Sean Griswald's Head (review)

4/5 stars

Sean Griswold's Head (Goodreads | Amazon) is another great book from Lindsey Leavitt.  She has a gift with writing books that are accessible, funny and young without feeling juvenile.  For those who enjoy her Princess for Hire series (me!), read Sean Griswold's Head.  While it's different, without any magic, the sense of humor and writing style remains the same.

Payton Gritas is the ideal student--organized, focused and driven. That is, until her father is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and her near perfect life turns upside down.  Payton didn't have a plan for this bump in the road and doesn't know how to cope.  Suddenly her lists and planners don't mean anything and her schoolwork starts to suffer.  So her guidance counselor recommends finding a focus object, something she can journal about to find balance and organization again.  What her guidance counselor doesn't count on is her picking a living subject, i.e. Sean Griswold's Head.

This book is heavier than Leavitt's Princess for Hire series, but it takes a talented author to make a book cute, fun and heavy all at once.  Payton is a bit of an emotional wreck, at times very frustrating and likable  but all of that makes for an authentic character.  I can relate to Payton, her terrible coping skills.  Even when you want to yell at Payton for the crap she pull, you can also see everything is coming from a place of love and fear.

You get both funny moments like this:
"I know hard-core cyclists wear tight clothes but I don't do spandex. The devil wears spandex. And I doubt the devil's butt is as big as mine."
and deeper stuff like this:
"I mean it isn't cancer. It...people don't...necessarily die. Don't do chemo. They don't follow a set recovery plan. They just change. Their bodies changes. Their abilities--the things they do that make them who they are--leave, sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. Every day they wake up with that big what if.
And nothing is scarier than a life filled with what ifs--living day by day without predictability and control."
Few books can deal with weighty topics like multiple sclerosis, while still keeping a funny voice.  You rarely get serious family struggles and questions, alongside funny lists and adorable first-crush awkward flirting. But this book contains both seamlessly.  Life is rarely just this tragic teenage mope fest or this funny giddy relationship melodrama. Realistically life is all of that, plus more, and that's what this book captures with equal measures of humor and poignancy.

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