You can look at something every day and never really see it. Payton Gritas looks at the back of Sean Griswold's head in most of her classes and has for as long as she can remember. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold/Gritas: it's an alphabetical-order thing), but aside from loaning Sean countless number-two pencils, she's never really noticed him.
Then Payton's guidance counselor tells her she needs a focus object--something to concentrate her emotions on while she deals with her dad's multiple sclerosis. The object is supposed to be inanimate, but Payton chooses Sean Griswold's head. It's much cuter than the atom models or anything else she stares at! As Payton starts stalking--er, focusing on--Sean's big blond head, her research quickly grows into something a little less scientific and a lot more crush-like. And once she really gets inside his head, Payton also lets Sean into her guarded heart. But obsessing over Sean won't fix Payton's fear of her dad's illness. For that, she'll have to focus on herself.
For a book about a head, this is unsurprisingly cute but surprisingly deep. Although Sean Griswold's Head is undoubtedly romantic, it was the plotline about Payton's father that really interested me. Reading about Payton's reaction to the news of her father's illness was excruciatingly honest. For weeks, she ignores him and the rest of her family, punishing them for something he can't control. The great thing is that she knows she's being horrible--she just doesn't know how to stop. And that's grief, right? Especially as a teenager. Uncontrollable emotions and actions that make you wonder what kind of person you are. It was really heart-warming to see Payton work through all of that to return to a healthy relationship with her family.
And the romance. It's cute. Sean is awesome. I liked that Payton's crush was simply the result of looking more closely at a person she'd never bothered to pay attention to before. That's a nice little lesson in looking deeper than a person's sterotypes. But I was never super invested in them. Sean either seemed too perfect, or drama seemed to pop up for no purpose other than to be dramatic. I might have liked them a lot more for being normal if Payton hadn't made that stupid decision (you know the one).
But what really makes me "meh" about this book is the writing. The humor and witticisms feel forced. Jac, Payton's best friend, is like no one I've ever met. And I don't mean that in a good way. She throws around ridiculous pet names ("Potato"? Whaaat?) and is generally a chariacture of a hyper teenager, not a hyper teenager herself. The rest of the book suffers similarly. Dialogue is just one clever line after another, and let me tell you, it takes a lot for me to say there needs to be less banter. The thing is, these kids sounded like they were reading from a script, not as though they would really think to say those things.
Nice idea, but I didn't love it.
Three out of five organized outlines.
Release Date: March 2011
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL LEA
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