Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review - Sean Griswold's Head

Lindsey Leavitt
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Payton Gritas has been sitting behind Sean Griswold (thank you, alphabetical order) for the past seven years and she doesn't know him at all. Aside from being the boy whose big head blocks her view, he's nothing. But when she finds out that her dad's been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - and that her family's been hiding this info from her for the past six months - that changes. The school counselor thinks Payton needs a focus object to help her cope with the sudden news and her feelings of betrayal that come from being shielded from the news for so long. Payton chooses Sean Griswold's head.

However, in finding out more about his head (where did that scar come from anyway?), Payton also gets to know Sean. How could she have sat behind him for so long and not known that he's a biker? Or that he shares the same television obsession as her? The more she learns about him, the more she likes him, until pretty soon the friendship-bordering-on-more that she shares with Sean seems to be the only thing working in her life. She's not talking to her parents, fighting with her best friend, and scoring her first ever C in Biology.

The character of Payton is a wonderful narrator -- unique, witty, and realistically confused by having to deal with watching her father's health deteriorate. Though the book isn't an in-depth look at MS, it does delve into Payton's feelings and her not-great ways of dealing with them. It also gives a good look at the family dynamics at play, which I love; I have a soft spot for YA novels that show a positive relationship between the main character and her family, which this book does without coming across as fake or saccharine. It's clear that Payton absolutely adores her parents and the fact that her dad is sick is killing her - it's something she has no idea how to deal with, especially since her family seems to have figured out how to deal in those months before she even knew. The betrayal here is a big one, especially since both of Payton's older brothers are in on it. Added to the family relationship is Payton's friendship with her overly-flirtatious and incredibly outgoing best friend. Friendships are hard and confusing sometimes and I love how that aspect of Payton's life is handled here; this is both a realistic and positive portrayal of best-friendship.

Sean Griswold's Head handles some difficult emotions with plenty of heart and humor. From the Seinfeld references to Sean and Payton's sweet and funny relationship, this book has a lot going for it. I especially recommend it for readers looking for a sweet, clean teenage love story, family dynamics and drama, or Seinfeld references.