About the Book:
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.
I read this one last year and decided it was time for a reread. Payton has always got along well with her parents and done decently in school. But when she discovers that her dad has been diagnosed with MS and nobody told her for six whole months, she's unable to process her chaotic emotions. On one hand she wants to be there for her father, whom she's always been close to, but on the other hand she's incredibly upset that everyone else in her family knew about it for that long and nobody told her. I can relate to Payton's feelings, my mother has Parkinson's Disease. When a parent is diagnosed with a crippling disease like that, it's hard for a child or a teenager to know how to handle it. I mean, I'm an adult now and still learning how to do that. And to find out that everyone else knew about it for six whole months before I did? Well, I may not think Payton's response is right, but it is understandable. This is where Sean Griswold comes in. He provides a welcome distraction from all the frustration at home. Sean and Payton are just so adorable! And Payton's Focus Journal thoughts on Sean and his head are funny. But he does help her to start figuring out what she thinks and how she'll handle her dad having MS. He also introduces her to a new sport-biking. Which is exactly what Payton needs, a way to work out her emotions physically. She had previously played basketball, but since she had shared that with her dad, she feels guilty and upset and won't play anymore. Her best friend Jac, and Sean's friend Grady, also provide support (in Jac's case) and teach Payton to look beyond the superficial in a person (in Grady's case).
Ms. Leavitt balances really well between the seriousness of a disease and the cuteness of new love. Payton is still growing up and she's learning early that life hands out some bad hands sometimes. She just has to remember that there are silver linings in whatever we go through. Talking about our feelings, whether to a parent, a friend, or a counselor is important. Serious diseases like MS are awful and they affect the patient's family just as much as the patient themselves. But it is possible to get through it, and even find some awesome new friends (or even a boyfriend!) along the way. It's not the end of the world, but the beginning of a new chapter in your lives. This really is a delightful little story. Sweet and serious, it's a wonderful little gem that makes for a nice few hours of reading time. Definitely recommend!
A fun passage:
So, with the aid of Jac, I go into full 007 mode with the Great Plant Idea. We find Miss Marietta's home address online, which is only a quarter of a mile away from me. Jac insists on writing the card, which works for me since my dreams lately have been haunted by its endless blankness. My job is to pick up the plant, which I do with the help of a begrudging Trent. Jac meets me at the front of our teacher's housing community at 1500 hours.
"Do you have the card?" I peek out from behind one of the plant's massive spikes.
"You didn't ask that right. Code, remember?"
I roll my eyes. "Has the white dove landed?"
"Roger. Are you ready to deliver the green goblin?" Green goblin = well, duh, right? Our code talk is more obvious that Pig Latin.
After a secret handshake and three strolls around the block to "stake out the place"-in case, you know, Russian spies try to thwart the delivery-we ease the plant onto the doorstep. Jac places a gloved finger over her lips while she rings the doorbell. Then we sprint to the hedge lining the right side of her yard.