Payton Gritas has been sitting behind Sean Griswold pretty much every day since third grade (it’s an alphabetical order thing), but she has never really noticed him. Then she’s thrown a bombshell at home: her dad has had multiple sclerosis for the past six months, and her parents haven’t bothered to tell her. No, he’s not dying, but his life is going to change, and she’s not happy that they excluded her from the loop.
Her parents insist on her going to counseling when she gets sullen around them (completely understandable, though), and the counselor (it really is just the high school counselor) suggests Payton pick a Focus Object to write about as a way to work through her feelings. Payton, for lack of a better thing (well, there were probably better things, but there wouldn’t be a book if she chose a pencil sharpener), picks Sean Griswold’s head. At first it’s just an exercise, but with a little pushing from her friend Jac, soon an exercise becomes a crush. And it turns out that Sean Griswold may just be as interested in Payton as she’s becoming in him.
This is a sweet little book. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, the romance is sweet, and the crisis is, thankfully, not cancer. It’s interesting to see a different disease tackled, one that changes lives as much as cancer does, but in a different way. It’s refreshing to have a good, positive family dynamic, one in which they’re dealing with mistakes, sure, but for the most part, the family is healthy and intact. It’s nice to see first love blossoming, and to deal with Payton’s awkwardness. She’s not fat, she’s not anorexic, she’s smart but not nerdy: she’s just a good half-Latina girl who’s trying to adjust to the fact that her dad has MS, there’s nothing she can do about it, and, by the way, the boy who’s sat in front of her for years is actually really pretty cute. And nice. And fun.
Sweet without being cloying, a disease book without being issue-y. Gotta love that.