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.
In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.
Contemporary YA is one of my great loves and when I heard about this book it sounded right up my street. I didn’t get round to reading it though until I read Raimy’s interesting review and thought it was about time I read it.
This book is about Payton, about her discovering that her father has Multiple Sclerosis and trying to adjust to both knowing this and the feeling of betrayal she experiences when she discovers the rest of the family had been keeping the news from her. If I’m being completely honest for a good proportion of the book Payton behaves like a bit of a brat but I didn’t find this frustrating, it felt like a very genuine reaction and one that I could understand even if I couldn’t imagine behaving the same way in the same situation. The one character I didn’t really take to however was Jac, Payton’s best friend. I found a lot of her behaviour irritating – she’s definitely the kind of person I wouldn’t want around me for very long.
Sean Griswold is the boy who sits in front of Payton in the classes they share – seating is allocated alphabetically and so she’s been sitting behind him for years without ever really noticing him. She chooses his head for a focus exercise the school counsellor gets her to do, it’s something that’s part of her everyday life. This allows us to get to know Sean as Payton does, I liked him a lot as a character. I really liked the way he and Payton grew closer through developing a shared interest, some of the moments they shared were lovely.
I thought that Payton’s father’s illness was covered in the book really well. It ended up not being the main focus of the book, instead it’s more about the effect it has on the family – I think teenagers in a similar situation to Payton or those who know someone who is might find it good to read. The one thing I would have quite liked to see however was a page pointing interested readers in the direction of reliable further information about Multiple Sclerosis.
This book is funny and warm with real heart. I thoroughly enjoyed it and just wish I’d not put it off for so long.
Sean Griswold’s Head is published by Scholastic in the UK.