So I feel a lot of pressure as I write this review. I won't even mention the ONE other review on Amazon. I'm not someone who routinely gives out 5 stars... in fact, if you click on "read other reviews" you'll see I've been a pretty tough critic lately, especially regarding the books I've read. I also get the feeling not many people will ever even hear of this book.
I just finished Sprout. Wow. I also just ordered two more books by this author. Anything I write feels like a cliche: I didn't want it to end, amazing character development,I grew to love the characters and the well-worn COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN. All those things are true.
So what's this book about? A teenage boy nicknamed Sprout, who happens to have green hair, and happens also to be gay. His mother dies (handled as a flashback in the book), leaving him with his alcoholic father (ok the one thing that was maybe a teeny cliche), moving from Long Island to Kansas. Very different from Long Island.
This book isn't about Sprout wrestling with being gay. It's also not about him struggling for acceptance. Or even coming out to his father (his father knows). It's about Sprout dealing with his mother's death, honing his writing skills (makes me wonder if this is semi-autobiographical), falling in lust, falling in love, worrying about a future after high school. This is next-gen gay, where the protagonists' sexuality is an interesting but not a defining detail.
The narrative switches from the third to the first person and back again. Lots of commentary from the narrator directly to us, the readers, fleshing out details, making wry observations on the situation that until that very second we've been reading about in third person. And did I mention the book is funny? Not laugh out loud funny, but lots of things that made me smile as I was reading, make me like the narrator more. Just to give you a flavor, if you've made it this far, here are some of the chapter titles "The margarita was the only virgin in the house," "Rural gay boy, party of one," "Like that girl in the pink coat in Schindler's List."
Language? Well, the F word does make an appearance or two. Sexual situations are handled with a "fade to black" with really no details or descriptions...Probably not something that a typical high school class would read, though it might be a good alternative to "Catcher in the Rye."
The story progresses well - definitely held my interest and took several twists and turns I didn't predict. Actually I couldn't predict anything - the book was one surprise after another. Fitting for a book that begins "I have a secret. And everyone knows it," which might be the all-time best start to a book ever. (Well, right after that whole In the Beginning thing..)
Sprout learns more about himself. And finishes with some more questions. The ending of the book may seem abrupt to some, but for me it was perfect. First love is often messy, filled with emotion, and the author captures the highs and lows with amazing skill.
This is my first gushing review of 2009 and I don't expect too many more. I really enjoyed this book. You might, too. Did I tell you I didn't want it to end?