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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 the Paperback edition.

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
3.0 out of 5 stars I loved Icy July 13 2004
I really liked this book, and I am fairly easily "bored" with some books, and am definately turned off by saccharine stories. I listened to the audio version, and never felt as though it was moving too slowly. I enjoyed all of the narrative. My 9 and 13 year old girls liked it very much also (although I fast-forwarded through the section where Icy and PeeVee have their conflict). When I listen to the tape on the way to work, Icy stays with me all day. I would recommend it to anyone interested in coming-of-age stories with a twist.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Icy Sparks July 10 2004
Format:Audio CD
This is a poor southern story focusing on a young girl named Icy Sparks, who has various physical and social problems while growing up... She is raised by her grandparents because her mother died when she was very young. As a youngster, Icy has unusual outbursts that cause her to be ostracized by the people in the small southern town where she is raised. To make matters worse, she has very few friends, except for Miss Emily. Miss Emily is an obese old maid who gives her advice on life and encourages her to go to college.
The story centers on Icy's thoughts and perspectives and in the end teaches a lesson to all of us on overcoming and not giving up. The plot, though interesting and full of great description, is slow and somewhat boring.
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3.0 out of 5 stars not impressed May 23 2004
By A Customer
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. But the characters are almost all stereotypes, and the understanding shown toward the girl seems too good to be true for the time and place the book is set in. Of course, she does meet her share of mockery, but those who love her achieve an unnatural state of acceptance and peace - yes, they should in an ideal world, but this is a time where no info on Tourette's was available.
While it is possible to tell a story by painting everything in primary colors, the reader eventually begins to long for some shades of gray. So it was here.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Icy Sparks April 22 2004
By Ali
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Touching story March 29 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. The characters are lovable, and you can picture yourself right there in the room. Wonderfully built story by the author. Enjoy this very good book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Icy Sparks March 26 2004
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 has left because she is afraid they will not love her anymore. How heartbreaking! Luckily, she does have one wonderful friend she can count on, Miss Emily, who is obese and knows exactly what it is like to be different and to have people dislike you because you are different. I also liked the ending. It did take a little bit of a religious turn in the last couple of chapters, so that could be a turn off for some people. However, I think that the real story behind those chapters was not so much about God but about Icy and her amazing talent. Through this talent Icy realized that she could feel wanted and accepted and could finally make peace with herself and her disorder.
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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 narcolepsy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Icy Found a Miracle Through Her Handicap! Jan. 18 2004
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 disorder we now know as Tourette's Syndrome. Icy struggled with the people around her, and no one could understand her at all. The only person who did was Miss Emily, a very obese woman who knew what it was like to be shunned either because of looking or acting
different than others. Miss Emily plays a big role in helping Emily, and through her, she discovers her talent of singing.
A very good book and worthwhile reading material.
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