Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sean Griswold's Head

Remember that person who was always seated in front of you in class because your names were next to each other in the alphabet? You knew each other vaguely, borrowed pencils, handed papers between you, maybe signed each others yearbooks, but that was the extent of the relationship. Did you ever sit in class staring at the back of that person's head wondering about them or were they just there, part of the scenery of your day? Well, Lindsy Leavitt took this question and turned it into part of a lovely story in Sean Griswold's Head.

Synopsis (from the author's website):
Payton Gritas needs a focus object—something to focus her emotions on after discovering that her father’s been hiding his multiple sclerosis. Her guidance counselor suggested something inanimate but Payton chooses 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 noticed him before. Payton starts stalking—er, focusing on—Sean’s big blond head, and her research quickly grows into something a little less scientific and a lot more crush-like. As Payton gets inside Sean’s head, Sean finds a way into her guarded heart. But obsessing over Sean won’t fix Payton’s fear of her dad’s illness. For that, she’ll have to focus on herself.

"Nothing creates a buzz like an Executive Deluxe day planner...I hug the planner to my chest and slowly brush the leather. It'll cost me a third of my Christmas money, but this baby has monthly and weekly calendars, financial graphs, to-do checklists...and did I mention the sweet, sweet leather?"
After a beginning like that there was no way that I could not like Payton. I felt an immediate connection to this obsessive nerdy girl and that connection held throughout the entire story. Payton's voice is spot on perfect. She is funny, self-deprecating, and very sympathetic. She is behaving like a bit of a brat at times in the story but you can't help but understand and empathize with her. Partly because she freely admits she is being a brat and her confusion over her feelings and the tumultuous mess her life is becoming makes it impossible to not like her. Also her parents and her best friend kind of deserve what she is dishing out. 

Then there is Sean. 

I really enjoyed the relationship between Payton and Sean and how it developed. It is sweet and simple and lovely. They genuinely have things in common and enjoy each other's company. Sean is not a typical 14 year old boy. He is more mature, focused, and understanding than most boys his age but his character was still very real. There are 14 year old boys like him out there, they are just not prevalent. He is just as prone to confusion, anger, and pouting as any typical boy his age. I didn't even mind too much when Payton came up with a ridiculous reason for avoiding him because I could see a scared and confused high school freshman doing something exactly that stupid.

As great as the romantic element of this story is I enjoyed it most as a story about a girl who is figuring out how to realign her life after it has been completely shaken up. The relationship between Payton and her family is also well developed and all the characters are distinctive and stand out. This is a wonderful light story about family, friendship, life, and first loves. I am very interested in reading Ms.Leavitt's other books now as well.

Note on Content: This is YA but could definitely be read by a younger audience who enjoys romance in their books. Sean and Payton's relationship is very much PG and I think that younger girls would also be able to relate to Payton's feelings and experiences.

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