Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Sean Griswold's Head

Summary: What if your first love was literally sitting right in front of you?

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use 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 known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance. -- Bloomsbury

I am so excited about SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD by Lindsey Leavitt that I hardly know where to start! I absolutely adored each and every page of this novel and I think I've already recommended it to anyone who will listen. This book encompasses everything I love about young adult novels -- it's sweet, the characters are "real", and the book delves into some pretty heavy issues for teen fiction. Needless to say, it was a huge hit with me and I can't wait to hear what Booking Daughter thinks of it.

SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD is the exactly the type of book that I would have loved as a young girl. (Heck, who am I kidding? It's exactly the type of book I love as a 40 something mom!) One of the main reasons that I enjoyed this story so much was because I just loved Payton -- flaws and all. Payton was a terrific character and my former teen self could definitely relate to her on so many levels. I'm pretty sure that many preteens and teens are going to agree.

Payton was a nice and conscientious girl (although some might call her a "goody two shoes"), and when she learns that her dad has MS, her life just falls apart. She feels left out, helpless, and frustrated; and she begins to sabotage what was good in her life. She won't speak with her parents, her stellar grades begin to take a nosedive and she even quits the basketball team. Her parents are naturally concerned about her and they want Payton to work with the school's eccentric guidance counselor (I would have been horrified as a teen!) When the guidance counselor suggests that Payton find a focus object and keep a journal about it, Payton decides to "focus" on Sean Griswold's head! Once she starts looking at Sean (and his head) a little differently, she realizes that she just might be falling hard for this very sweet and very cute guy!

As you can see this book deals with so many relevant teen issues. I appreciated that it addressed a serious illness like MS and I thought the author did a marvelous job of showing the effects it had on Payton. Because Payton was having so many difficulties with accepting her dad's illness and basically feeling so inadequate, she began to punish herself by giving up what was important to her. These actions led Payton to feel even worse about herself and she began a sort of vicious cycle. What I loved so much about Payton is how authentic she seemed to me -- she seemed to behave exactly like I might have if I had been in her shoes. Fortunately, Payton eventually came to her senses and she had a pretty terrific support system in place. I have to admit that this book definitely touched a huge part of my heart.

While Payton's coping was definitely a huge part of this story, there were still many other parts of this book that I treasured -- namely all of Payton's relationships with others. I loved how this book explored Payton's relationship with her parents (and especially her dad) as well as her interactions with her brothers. In addition, I thought the way Payton's friendship with Jac was portrayed was spot on and really showed a great deal about the ups and downs of teen relationships. And last, but certainly not least, was Payton's relationship with Sean. I loved Sean -- what more can I say? He was such a positive influence on Payton and so wise beyond his years.

I wasn't able to find a reader's guide for SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD, but trust me...this is an ideal book club pick for teen groups or even mother/daughter ones. This novel touches on so many discussion worthy issues including parent/child relationships, illness, friendship, acceptance, forgiveness, boy/girl relationships, trust, and first love. It's definitely one of those must-read novels!

SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD is the first novel that I've read by Ms. Leavitt, but it certainly won't be the last. In fact, we already own her book PRINCESS FOR HIRE -- Booking Daughter purchased it at her school's book fair a few weeks ago. (Guess what I can't wait to read?) I really think Ms. Leavitt did a marvelous job of creating "real" characters with "real" issues. And I love how she tackled some pretty heavy issues while also infusing a great deal of humor into the story too.

Very highly recommended for tweens, teens and moms!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.

P.S. - I know this is going to sound kind of corny, but I truly think I was meant to read this book at this time in my life. I took SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD with me on our weekend vacation to Philadelphia last weekend. The book actually takes place in the Philly suburbs so I appreciated all of the references. We spent the day shopping at the King of Prussia mall and then spent a few hours walking around Valley Forge National Park. When I got back to my hotel room that evening and sat down to read, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Payton and Sean spend many hours riding their bikes at Valley Forge. I had visited all of the Valley Forge spots that were referenced in this novel and I couldn't get over the coincidence. I think it definitely made parts of this story very real for me!


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like the type of book teens should be reading. Great review!

Karlie said...

This sounds adorable. I'm sure that Booking Daughter will love it!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Oh I have to get this! I was always focussing on some guy's head in school!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Since eventually I will be a tween mom, maybe I should check this one out :)

Anonymous said...

I love the sound of this book. What a glowing review. I'm looking forward to reading this as I start to get more into YA fiction.

Unknown said...

Uncanny! I love how coincidences work between real life and fiction :)

I just bought this book because I thought it sounded funny, quirky, and interesting. After you review, I am totally psyched on reading it ASAP! Thanks :)

Jenna said...

Sounds like a heartwarming story, and one that more teens should read!

Ruth said...

Although I am not a teen, this sounds like a different kind of book that I need to put on my TBR list--and I did. Thanks for the review!