Thanks to the mighty gods of alphabetical order, 15-year-old Payton Gritas has spent a lot of time staring at the back of Sean Griswold's head. She's sat in the desk behind his every year since third grade. So, when the school counselor suggests Payton try an unorthodox exercise involving a focus object, Payton chooses something with which she's very familiar - Sean's extra-large noggin. It's a strange assignment, for sure, but it seems to be working. As long as Payton's zeroing in on Sean, she can forget about the thing that's really bugging her: her dad's multiple sclerosis (MS).
The more time Payton spends observing Sean, the more she realizes that, for all the time they've spent sitting near each other, she doesn't really know him. When she decides to broaden her research to include more than just Sean's head, Payton discovers the boy's totally stalk-worthy. Not only is he nice, but he's cute, interesting and even a little mysterious. As Payton gets to know him better, Sean becomes less of a science experiment and more of a friend, a friend with a whole lot of potential to be more.
While focusing on Sean distracts Payton from her problems at home, it doesn't erase what's happening to her dad. She still can't deal with that. It's only when things really start to fall apart that she's forced to face everything she's been avoiding. Now she'll have to focus on the one thing she's been trying to avoid all along: the truth.
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt is one of those issue novels that doesn't necessarily feel like an issue novel. It's about an issue, yes, and a serious one, but it manages to stay upbeat and funny while still addressing a teen's very real feelings about her dad's illness. It avoids cheesy melodrama, dealing with Payton's emotions in a way that remains authentic and true. Since I can't say it any better than this, I'm going to sum it all up with a line I stole from Melissa's excellent review over at Book Nut: "[Sean Griswold's Head is] sweet without being cloying, a disease book without being issue-y. Gotta love that." See what I mean? And, for the record, I completely agree.
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for mild sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: Another library