Synopsis from Goodreads.
How many secrets can you hide in plain sight?
Sprout Bradford has a secret. It’s not what you think—he’ll tell you he’s gay. He’ll tell you about his dad’s drinking and his mother’s death. The green fingerprints everywhere tell you when he last dyed his hair. But neither the reader nor Sprout are prepared for what happens when Sprout suddenly finds he’s had a more profound effect on the lives around him than he ever thought possible. Sprout is both hilarious and gripping; a story of one boy at odds with the expected.
There are certain phrases I’ve noticed that I use a lot when I’m reviewing. “This book was fascinating….” “I don’t know what I was expecting…” “For the love of God, just read it…” “This book feels so Australian/British….”
Ah, there we go. Let’s have a look at that last one, shall we?
I always seem to chat on about how books are “so British” because they’re gritty and deal with every day issues. Or how books are “so Australian” if they’re raw and emotional.
But I have never, ever once said “Wow… this book is so American”.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourself for a Wear the Old Coat exclusive because this book is so gloriously American. The story, and I’m taking about the bare bones story, isn’t anything new for YA and it certainly isn’t an American story. This book is about a gay boy growing up and having to deal with that. But the way that Mr Peck tells the story, with this fantastic sense of humour, extremely mocking and a little bit rude in some points, and how he sets the story against the rural backdrop of Arkansas (now, seriously, how do you pronounce that? Because I always thought it was Ar-kan-saw but Mr Peck tells me I’m wrong? Make your mind up, Americans!), makes it “an American book”.
I don’t know if you want me to explain this point any more, but I don’t care, I’m going to anyway. Basically, I don’t think that Sprout would have worked at all if it was set in any other country. The sparse, dusty backdrop, the cowboys, the shot guns, the trailer parks, the eccentric characters, spelling bees, essay writing competitions- this book wouldn’t be this book without this setting.
Anyway, I loved it and it was so refreshing to read a story set in America that had a definite sense of place. I hope I’m not tarring people with the same brush with this statement, but I often feel that some American YA are much more concerned with the characters and the issues as opposed to the setting. Which is fine, obviously, I’m not knocking that… but America’s such a diverse country and every state has its own personality and I just love the opportunity to find out more about them.
My favourite part of this book was the humour. Seriously, this book had me in hysterics. I know a lot of you loved Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and I can safely say if you were smitten with the style of humour in that, you should definitely pick this one up. It’s unashamed, it toes the line, it’s loud and, most importantly, it’s insanely clever. Mr Peck’s humour is definitely not the kind that sets up a joke and keeps looking over its shoulder to make sure you’re laughing. It’ll leave you behind if you’re not keeping up… and you’d better keep up.
I’ll admit, a few jokes probably went over my head because there were a lot of references to American culture that I don’t really know about, but that didn’t matter at all. Actually, the humour, dark and very observational, was wonderfully reminiscent of Awkward… so again, if you find that funny…
Not a million miles away from the humour, I want to talk briefly about Sprout who is, without a doubt, one of the most memorable male narrators I’ve read recently. His brilliant way of seeing the world and articulating his thoughts were so fantastic and a perfect antidote to all the wishy-washy ones that mope around when things don’t go their way.
Re: last chapter and all those heart-wrenching shennanigans, I’m not actually on speaking terms with Sprout right now, but I’m mature enough to write an unbiased review. But comeonseriouslySproutyouabsolutelyridiculousboy.
And then we have Ty. OH TY. Sorry, capital letters. But Ty’s a character that needs capital letters. I’m not going to go into all my feelings about Ty and Sprout’s relationship with him because, well, I’m not a rambly kind of gal (heh…heh) but wow.
It’s definitely one of my favourite YA love stories that I’ve read. I just adored how they gelled together and how sometimes they didn’t and how that was perfectly OK.
It was refreshing to read the love story that Mr Peck wanted to tell, without being all hidden glances and introspection and philosophy and overthinking things and ensuring that the reader knows there are Issues (note the capital letter) to be digested and discussed and regurgitated at PTA meetings and banned from schools all across the land.
This book is about just boys being boys… with some kissing and groping and sex thrown in for good measure. And it was perfection.
This book left green smudges all over my heart and I imagine they’ll be there for a long, long time.