I have a secret. And everyone knows it. But no one talks about it, at least not out in the open. That makes it a very modern secret, like knowing your favorite celebrity has some weird eccentricity or other, or professional athletes do it for the money, or politicians don't actually have your best interests at heart.
Meet Sprout. The green-haired wonder of a boy who doesn't have it all figured out. He's got some things figured out: he knows he's gay; he knows his father is an alcoholic. But he doesn't have his life all figured out. (Does anybody? If they say they do, are they are lying?) Since his mom died, Sprout's life has been, well, weird. It starts with a sudden move across the country.
"My dad and I moved here four years ago, when I was twelve. Long Island to Kansas. Fifteen hundred miles, most of it on I-70. We drove it in twenty-three hours, pausing only for food--McDonald's, Cracker Barrel, more McDonald's--and gas. There was no reason we didn't stop. It's not like there was anything waiting for us in Kansas. It was more like we were trying to get away--or he was trying to get away, and I was his hostage. I'm not even sure Kansas was our destination, or if it's just where my dad ran out of steam. Maybe it's just where he realized he couldn't run away from his memories."
Sprout is an eccentric teen, no doubt. And it's more than just his green hair. One teacher, Mrs. Miller, notices his genius, his gift for writing, his gift with words. She sees in him a chance to win big. The essay-writing contest. He just needs some polishing, something that she's more than willing to do day after summer day. And since Sprout isn't that popular a kid, he's got the time to spare. Will a summer spent in private with the teacher change a boy's life forever? Maybe, maybe not.
There were a lot of lies in our life, and if I end up telling a few, it's only because I'm repeating what I heard (13)
Mrs. Miller's detentions were famous: thousand-word essays on the history of the wheat; dramatic monologues on the Homestead Act of 1846; or just copying the complete definition of the verb to be from the dictionary--by hand, in crayon, using a different color for each letter. (16)
Sometimes my dad liked to drive. Sometimes my dad liked to take me with him when he drove. Sometimes I didn't manage to sneak into the forest before he found me. This must've been one of those times. So... (22)
I have to admit, though, in the two weeks since Mrs. Miller had put the idea in my head, it had grown on me. The truth is, I do enjoy playing around with words (if you're still reading, you might've noticed that). And I was also beginning to think maybe I had something to say. Like, you know: I'm a creep, I'm a loser, I smell like Teen Spirit but I'm beautiful no matter what they say, and I'm bringing sexy back, yeah! Does that make me crazy? Probably. But now it seemed Mrs. M. was telling me I couldn't write what I wanted. That I had to discuss a topic someone else picked out. This was starting to sound less like an extracurricular activity, more like, well, school. (45)Should Sprout be allowed to write what he wants? To have the freedom to be himself? The freedom to just be. It's a charming novel about a boy's coming of age...and his first real relationship. This relationship is tastefully portrayed--much more tasteful than what I was expecting. (After reading The Screwed Up Life of Charlie the Second, that is). The emotions are there, but we're not privy to every single detail about Sprout's intimate life. The relationship just is, it doesn't feel like it's there for shock value or anything.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews