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Icy Sparks [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Gwyn Hyman Rubio , Kate Miller
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 4 2001 Oprah's Book Club
An Oprah's Book Club selection

Set in Appalachia during the late 1950s, this acclaimed first novel chronicles a young girl's heartbreaking battle with Tourette's syndrome.

Ten-year-old Icy Sparks already has one strike against her: She's an orphan. Life becomes even more difficult when Icy develops strange symptoms: violent tics, inexplicable convulsions, sudden outbursts, and uncontrollable cursing that accompany her rare neurological disorder. Her affliction goes undiagnosed until adulthood, but the all-too-visible signs are the source of endless mystery and hilarity as everyone around offers an opinion about what's troubling the girl. Eventually Icy finds solace in the company of Miss Emily, who knows what it's like to be an outcast in this tightly knit community.

Narrated by a now-grown Icy, this novel shimmers with warmth and humor as it recounts a young girl's painful journey to womanhood. A funny, sad, and transcendent story, Icy Sparks introduces a fresh new Southern voice.

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From Amazon

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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Icy Sparks April 22 2004
By Ali
Format:Paperback
Icy Sparks is a girl who was raised by her grandparents because both her parents died when she was young. Along with growing up with no parents, Icy also has a disease called Tourette Syndrom, and doesn't find out she has this disease untill early adulthood. Her violent tics and verbal abuse, caused by Tourettes, isolates her from her peers and social life. This novel is about Icy's struggles and achievements in surviving the emotional and physical effects of tourrettes. And along the way Icy finds the meaning of love that looks beyond her disease, a love that last forever. The love her grandparents, and best friend (Emily), gave from the very beginning to the very end.
This book was hard to get into at first but soon I couldn't stop reading it. The author puts the reader in the mind set of Icy, which give the book a personality of its own. It's a real eye opener to what it's like to be mentally different but appear to be as normal as any other person. It can be confusing at times, so i reccomend it for ages 13 and older. (side note: to understand the story better read the section at the back of the book on Tourette Syndrom.)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good First Novel Dec 11 2003
Format:Paperback
This novel is simply written and direct and tells the story of a girl growing up with a mysterious condition that makes her a social outcast. She suffers from bouts of tics, jerks, uncontrollable verbal outbursts, and all the social and psychological fallout such bizarre behavior brings. Icy Sparks makes her way through school in rural Kentucky in the 1950s, and meets up with an ignorant teacher and teasing classmates, which only make matters worse. Both of Icy's parents are dead, and she's being raised by caring and loving grandparents, but there is reference to a genetic link to her father for her condition.
Icy's life plays out realistically, which makes it clear that this story must be autobiographical.
What makes this story unique is the rarity of its telling in literature. I did find the ending a bit much, although the scenes at the end were rendered well. It's only in the last two pages that we discover Icy's condition to be that of Tourette's Syndrome, which makes the book all the more effective.
For anyone with this condition or who has children with this condition, this novel is must reading. For all others, it's also good to understand and empathize with those burdened with this genetic problem.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Icy's Sparks Aug. 27 2002
Format:Paperback
Icy Sparks, title character and charming little girl, will win your heart. She is bright and beautiful with "hair the color of goldenrod" and eyes of "yellow ochre," but she has a secret that all too soon is revealed to the public and not only peers but adults alike fear her. She has Tourette Syndrome, but in the 1950's, it was undiagnosed and she found no relief until her 20's.
Icy lives with her adoring grandparents in a small Kentucky mountain town. The book is full of folk wisdom and lovely description of flowers and the natural beauty of the area. Characters are well-drawn allowing the reader to attain an intimacy with them that is seldom found. A stay at the state mental hospital reveals characters so despicable that they are almost Dickensian in character, making the reader empathize with Icy all the more.
A sojourn at the end into the various churches of the town and their characteristics lends humor and authenticity to Icy's emergence from fear and shame into a world where she knows she will survive. Her lovely "voice like an angel" gives her confidence and the courage to know that she will make it. The only part that did not ring true to me was all the carrying on at the end with the pentacostal stuff. It seemed totally out of character for both the grandmother and Miss Emily to fall prey to such sensationalism and perfectly on point for Icy to refuse it.
All in all, this is a lovely book with wisdom and lessons for living. Icy's insights are both wise beyond her years and charming in their innocence. Despite some rather wordy passages that could have been shortened, this is a very good read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Icy's Sparks Aug. 27 2002
Format:Paperback
Icy Sparks, title character and charming little girl, will win your heart. She is bright and beautiful with "hair the color of goldenrod" and eyes of "yellow ochre," but she has a secret that all too soon is revealed to the public and not only peers but adults alike fear her. She has Tourette Syndrome, but in the 1950's, it was undiagnosed and she found no relief until her 20's.
Icy lives with her adoring grandparents in a small Kentucky mountain town. The book is full of folk wisdom and lovely description of flowers and the natural beauty of the area. Characters are well-drawn allowing the reader to attain an intimacy with them that is seldom found. A stay at the state mental hospital reveals characters so despicable that they are almost Dickensian in character, making the reader empathize with Icy all the more.
A sojourn at the end into the various churches of the town and their characteristics lends humor and authenticity to Icy's emergence from fear and shame into a world where she knows she will survive. Her lovely "voice like an angel" gives her confidence and the courage to know that she will make it.
All in all, this is a lovely book with wisdom and lessons for living. Icy's insights are both wise beyond her years and charming in their innocence. Despite some rather wordy passages that could have been shortened, this is a very good read.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I loved Icy
I really liked this book, and I am fairly easily "bored" with some books, and am definately turned off by saccharine stories. Read more
Published on July 13 2004 by Kentucky reader
3.0 out of 5 stars Icy Sparks
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 more
Published on July 10 2004 by smartnurse123
3.0 out of 5 stars not impressed
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 more
Published on May 23 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching story
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 more
Published on March 29 2004 by Patty Philbrook
4.0 out of 5 stars Icy Sparks
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 more
Published on March 26 2004 by Jeni_Lyn
1.0 out of 5 stars ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
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 more
Published on Jan. 22 2004 by JayMack
5.0 out of 5 stars Icy Found a Miracle Through Her Handicap!
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 more
Published on Jan. 18 2004 by J. Kirkman
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleased
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 more
Published on May 17 2003 by Cally
5.0 out of 5 stars heart jerker
I loved this book. I usually don't read many books but when i picked this one up and started it. I simply could not stop reading it. Read more
Published on March 31 2003 by Kimmen Neal
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing...
Icy Sparks is the story of a young girl in rural Kentucky, afflicted with Tourette's syndrome. However, in the backwoods where Icy lives, her occasional outbursts of croaks and... Read more
Published on March 8 2003 by "nursebon599"
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