Andrew Smith //
Andrew Smith has become one of BT’s favorite authors. We started out with The Marbury Lens, a greatly disturbing dystopian YA novel, that to our regret didn’t have any music in it. TML was such a thrilling read that it sent us to other books by this kick-ass author. After having read In the Path of Falling Objects (BT22) we interviewed Mr. Smith and he kindly offered us an advanced reader copy of his newest YA: Stick.
http://www.2001.net/Booktunes/Booktunes 24_ Stick.mp3
In Stick Andrew Smith presents us thirteen-year-old Stark McClellan, nicknamed Stick because he’s tall and thin. Stark is bullied for being ‘deformed’ – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always around to defend Stick. Unfortunately, the boys can’t save each other from their abusive parents. One night, not long after word comes out that he is gay, Bosten disappears. Stick has to find his brother, or he will never feel whole again, so on his fourteenth birthday he steals a car and sets off to California in search of Bosten. Along the way, he encounters good people, bad people, and people who are simply indifferent to kids from the wrong side of the track. But Stick never loses hope of finding love – and his brother.
Where to begin?
With the structure, maybe?
The structure of this novel is quite unusual. Words and lines jump across the page and fonts change, leaving you puzzled and disoriented at first, until it becomes clear why Smith has set his prose free: it pulls you into Stick’s world, a world where only one side is audible, where only one side can give him (and you) footing. Unusual, yes, but with this playful layout Smith has found an excellent way to let the reader literally experience how it feels to have half the world escape you.
Or the story itself?
With Stick Smith leaves us rattled again, for Stick’s world is a malicious and ugly one. Smith’ choice of words is uncompromising, his prose is direct and candid, and the story is often spine-chillingly rough, and yet he manages to let us, through Stick’s eyes, see beauty and love. An extraordinary tour de force that makes you want to keep reading, even through the most abusive and rough scenes.
Yes, there is music in Stick, and not only in Smith’ brilliant prose. When the boys pull a prank, which makes people think there is a UFO over Seattle, Smith adds the CCR classic ‘It Came Out Of The Sky’. Smith had a lot of early Neil Young songs on his playlist and he told us that the innocent wonder of Neil Young resonates through the voice of Stick’s narration. He put ‘Mr. Soul’ in the novel, because of its recurring line: “Is it strange I should change, I don’t know…” Because, Smith says, Stick is after all about changing.
text by Mina Witteman / photo by Chris Anderson