Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blog Tour: Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599904985
ISBN-13: 978-1599904986

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object—an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas—it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.

Review:

Fifteen-year-old, freshman Payton Gristas is an amazingly dynamic character. Soon after discovering a bizarre view at home that coincides with an even more shocking truth, she does what most everyone does in a state of acute denial--finds a displacement object and focuses the hell out of it. Her father's disease is slowly taking him more and more away from his love in life: basketball, and the fact that he used to practice with Payton made it all the more disparaging. When the school counselor suggests Payton use a Focus Object to help her work through her onslaught of emotions, she resorts to something that can change periodically but has gone unknowingly unnoticed: Sean Griswold's head. This soon leads to the brilliant deduction that in the seven years they've known each other, they don't really know each other.

"You go through enough with a person over a long enough period of time and they just become a part of who you are." (15)

The setting in which Sean and Payton finally meet is in their Biology class which soon has a significance later on in the book that has to do more with not knowing much about their teacher. It is pretty amazing how many aspects of this book go into greater detail as all the events play out. The one thing that Sean and Payton eventually have in common is the love for bicycling, and I have to say that that was my favorite part in and out of their relationship. It is the one solid point that carries the reader through the ups and downs and is monumentally there at the very end when it plays the biggest role in connecting all the pieces of Payton's life together.

Only two things I disagree with in the entire drama that is Payton's life, just two. One: the most obvious would have to be how long she holds the grudge against her parents for keeping her father's disease quiet for six months. One thing I'm secure of myself about is that when I hold a grudge, 1) the grudge-ee is aware of my feelings, 2) I will most likely not be the first to realize the situation could have been handled better, and 3) forget about apologizing. (You'd best be on your knees by then.) That is why, when Payton Gritas finds out that her parents lied to her, I was like "Yeah! Right there with you, sister." However, that factor seemed to automatically matter so much more than her father's initial diagnosis. Now, Payton does care--don't think she doesn't just because she's giving her parents the silent treatment for a while. What I have a problem dealing with is how LONG she maintains that "while" and inevitably--going psychological here--displaces that anger-with-underlying-fear to her friends. Besides the fact that she confronts herself in the end and gives herself a HUGE mental slap, I have to say that she's on an emotional roller coaster. I accepted this, especially when I read the conflicting hurdles that stand in her way on her path to, shall we say, self-discovery.

Now that I've ranted about her inability to deal, my second tickle I have is minor but felt worthy of being mentioned. I did not like the very last page, the very last scene written about Sean and Payton. This may just be a fan-girl thing, but it is noteworthy indeed; it just did not satisfy my additive need of reading about complex but horny teenagers. Some juice would have been nice!

Exceptionally, to the more exciting and hilarious quotes in this book. I had the best time reading Payton's entries in her "Payton's Focusing Exercise" journal , and the fact that she referred to Sean's head as a dome just about killed me. Some great traits of Payton are the activities she gave up on when the Truth came out. I found that totally understandable, and ended up really loving the way Leavitt wrote Payton as an avoids-hard-topics/her-feelings kind of girl because in the end it just made her all the more of a stronger character for it. As for her best friend Jac, who plays an important role in the book in general, needs to encode privacy into her vocabulary. Some may find her outgoing attitude just this side of sane, but I found it down right irritating; her never-ending variety of nicknames for Payton drove me just a tad over the edge. However, I do believe this was mostly because we only got brief glimpses of how Jac's background taints her forthright temperament. In fact, I would have liked to have read more about Sean home life as well. I have to admit that Leavitt did a phenomenal in describing him as person, likes/dislikes, accomplishments, his view of the world, etc. As for his parents, or previous years of schooling--that were mostly spent with Payton, by the way--would have been enjoyable to read as well.

Overall, I must conclude that Leavitt has an admirable style of writing and I'm hoping to get my hands on a copy of her debut, Princess for Hire, soon. (Especially since the sequel, The Royal Treatment, is due out early May.)

Grade: B-



Quotes:

"I bet if you corralled all the renegade socks and stitched them into a blanket, it'd cover more of the earth than the waning ozone layer." (21)

"I would be lying if I said I didn't get a kick out of the assignment. Here I am, a "troubled youth," and my self-chosen treatment is to become a stalker. Okay, not a stalker. Research Analyst." (27)

"Trent raises a waxed eyebrow. Yes, I'm related to a male eyebrow waxer who, surprisingly, Very Much Straight. He started waxing his eyebrows after he shaved his legs, which was after the Nair-on-the-chest debacle. He's a swimmer, that's his excuse--but come on, is extra eyebrow hair really going to slow you down in the water?" (36)

Regarding Payton's dad's MS disease:

"And nothing is scarier than a life filled with what ifs--living day by day without predictability and control. Some people end up losing feeling. Some have uncontrollable spasms. Some can't function. Some end up blind or in a wheelchair. Some end up bedridden and paralyzed.
It's hard to know who 'some people' will be." (38)

Regarding the Hall of Terror:

"I had a locker in this hallway at the beginning of the year. It was close to most of my classes, so I declined the two offers to switch. One day, while I was getting my books out of my locker, the looks-like-he's-twenty-and-probably-is junior with the locker above me leaned down and said, 'Those among the living should not walk among the dead.' Then, he BIT me." (60)

And finally my favorite entry in Payton's "PFEs" journal has to be the Five Senses of Sean. Especially the Taste category...

"3. Taste: Gross! What am I supposed to do, lick him?" (74)

These quotes are not nearly all the ones I noted in Sean Griswold's Head, but they are some of the best.

This ARC was provided by the publisher for my honest, uninfluenced review.

LiLi