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The eponymous heroine of Gwyn Rubio's Icy Sparks is only 10 years old the first time it happens. The sudden itching, the pressure squeezing her skull, and the "little invisible rubber bands" attached to her eyelids are all symptoms of Tourette's syndrome. At this point, of course, Icy doesn't yet have a name for these unsettling impulses. But whenever they become too much to resist, she runs down to her grandparents' root cellar, and there she gives in, croaking, jerking, cursing, and popping her eyes. Nicknamed the "frog child" by her classmates, Icy soon becomes "a little girl who had to keep all of her compulsions inside." Only a brief confinement at the Bluegrass State Hospital persuades her that there are actually children more "different" than she.
As a first novel about growing up poor, orphaned, and prone to fits in a small Appalachian town, Icy Sparks tells a fascinating story. By the time the epilogue rolls around, Icy has prevailed over her disorder and become a therapist: "Children silent as stone sing for me. Children who cannot speak create music for me." For readers familiar with this particular brand of coming-of-age novel--affliction fiction?--Icy's triumph should come as no great surprise. That's one problem. Another is Rubio's tendency to lapse into overheated prose: this is a novel in which the characters would sooner yell, pout, whine, moan, or sass a sentence than simply say it. But the real drawback to Icy Sparks is that some of the characters--especially the bad ones--are drawn with very broad strokes indeed, and the moral principles tend to be equally elementary: embrace your difference, none of us is alone, and so on. When Icy gets saved at a tent revival, even Jesus takes on the accents of a self-help guru: "You must love yourself!" With insights like these, this is one Southern novel that's more Wally Lamb than Harper Lee. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The diagnosis of Tourette's Syndrome isn't mentioned until the last pages of Rubio's sensitive portrayal of a young girl with the disease. Instead, Rubio lets Icy Sparks tell her own story of growing up during the 1950s in a small Kentucky town where her uncontrollable outbursts make her an object of fright and scorn. "The Saturday after my [10th] birthday, the eye blinking and poppings began.... I could feel little invisible rubber bands fastened to my eyelids, pulled tight through my brain and attached to the back of my head," says Icy, who thinks of herself as the "frog child from Icy Creek." Orphaned and cared for by her loving grandparents, Icy weathers the taunts of a mean schoolteacher and, later, a crush on a boy that ends in disappointment. But she also finds real friendship with the enormously fat Miss Emily, who offers kindness and camaraderie. Rubio captures Icy's feelings of isolation and brings poignancy and drama to Icy's childhood experiences, to her temporary confinement in a mental institution and to her reluctant introduction?thanks to Miss Emily and Icy's grandmother?to the Pentecostal church through which she discovers her singing talent. If Rubio sometimes loses track of Icy's voice, indulges in unconvincing magical realism and takes unearned poetic license with the speech of her Appalachian grandparents ("'Your skin was as cold as fresh springwater, slippery and strangely soothing to touch'"), her first novel is remarkable for its often funny portrayal of a child's fears, loves and struggles with an affliction she doesn't know isn't her fault. Agent, Susan Golomb; editor, Jane von Mehren.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I really liked this book, and I am fairly easily "bored" with some books, and am definately turned off by saccharine stories. Read morePublished on July 13 2004 by Kentucky reader
This is a poor southern story focusing on a young girl named Icy Sparks, who has various physical and social problems while growing up... Read morePublished on July 10 2004 by smartnurse123
The writer definitely knows her craft. She is capable of some amazing descriptions and gives the subject of a young girl with Tourette's syndrome a poetic touch. Read morePublished on May 23 2004
Full of truth and harsh reality, Icy Sparks tells a sweet and heart breaking tale of trying to fit into the round hole when you are the square peg. I loved this book. Read morePublished on March 29 2004 by Patty Philbrook
I really enjoyed this story. It's about a young orphan, Icy Sparks who is struggling with Tourette's syndrome and who is trying her damndest to keep it from the only family she... Read morePublished on March 26 2004 by Jeni_Lyn
On the surface, this novel brings you into the twitching and croaking body of a girl suffering Tourette Syndrome, but the book's real magic is its power to actually induce... Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2004 by JayMack
Icy Sparks was an orphaned child who was being broguth up by her grandparents. Life was difficult for her though, as she had the sudden onset of twitches and jerks,which is a... Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2004 by J. Kirkman
This book was quite good. It is about a girl whom goes by the name of Icy Sparks growing up in a southern state in the 1950's. Read morePublished on May 17 2003 by Cally