Wednesday, March 30, 2011

YA BOOK REVIEW: Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Although I’ve pointed out before that I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary YA, every once in awhile a blurb catches my attention with a hook I can’t resist. Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt is just such a book.

Payton Gritas is an unusual teenager in that she is bright, happy, athletic, a good student, has a loyal best friend, no issues with "mean" girls, and comes from a close-knit, functional family. Then she walks in on her mother giving her father an injection and a bomb explodes in her life. She learns her father has multiple sclerosis. He was diagnosed six months prior and her family has been keeping it from her.

Payton’s world falls apart. She reacts in an unpleasantly adolescent manner, but one that is in character and understandable. Payton just does not know how to cope with something this bad. Being angry with her parents for lying is easier than admitting her fear and lack of control. Her parents enlist the aid of a school counselor who assigns her the task of keeping a journal about a focus object. Learning to focus on something will help her to concentrate her emotions. It’s supposed to be an inanimate object, but she decides to focus on the (large) head of the boy who has been sitting in front of her in practically every class since third grade, Sean Griswold (Griswold/Gritas- it’s an alphabetical thing.)

What starts as almost a reluctant joke turns into an actual focus for her life as Payton finds herself more and more interested in the boy attached to the head. And while having a crush at first seems to complicate Payton’s life, creating more problems it solves, luckily, Sean has one steady head.

This is an enjoyable quick read with likeable teens in credible situations. It was easy to empathize with Payton, despite her self-centered behavior, very realistically portrayed. She wasn’t a perfect kid but she was a good kid. Readers will want things to work out well for her in a situation that will never be anything better than manageable. And readers will cheer for Sean, one of the nicest teen male protagonists I’ve run across in a long while. This sweet YA love story is, at heart, a book about learning to cope.