Sprout by Dale Peck

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The back cover blurb: When Sprout and his father move from Long Island to the midst of rural Kansas after the death of his mother, he is sure he will find no friends, no love, no beauty.

But friends find him, the strangeness of the landscape fascinates him, and when love shows up in an unexpected place, Sprout realises that Kansas is not quite as empty as he thought it was going to be.

An incredible, literary story of a boy who knows he is gay in a the town that seems to have no place for him to hide.

I loved this book - Sprout was a funny and engaging character, and the novel was structured like he was writing it - in parts essays for Mrs Miller, the senior English teacher who likes inventing cocktails and has taken Sprout under her wing to train him for the State Essay Contest, and thoughts of his own. It was kind of hard to discern when it stopped being essays and started being his private thoughts, and I loved the confusing, sprawling way in which it was written.

The characters all had depth and were endlessly interesting, if a little frustrating - Sprout's strange relationship with Ian Abernathy, his future-starlet friend Ruthie Wilcox (who I felt we didn't find out enough about; though she seemed a really bizarre character, in what we did learn about her), Sprout's drunk father who later starts dating Mrs Miller, and Ty, Sprout's somewhat troubled friend.

Sprout himself is a really great character - he carries a dictionary around, for one thing, which is odd enough on his own. The point at which he reveals he is gay to Mrs Miller is also when the reader finds out he's gay, and I think this part would be a whole lot more effecting if I hadn't have known this as soon as I read the back cover blurb. Sprout was a character I really empathised with.

Even the settings were interesting - Sprout lives in a trailer which his father grew vines around, and surrounded with upside-down tree stumps. So many little details like that made a quirky story even stranger, and the characters, their experiences, their behavious, were believable even with their eccentricities.

One of many things I loved about this book was how honest it was; almost shockingly at times, but I think that added to the entire appeal of the novel. It was decidedly different.

Overall, a brilliantly funny and moving novel. I don't think this book is for everyone, but if you like books which are honest, witty and a little bit left of centre, it's definitely worth picking up.
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