Fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas finds out her father has multiple sclerosis six months after the rest of the family already knows. She is hurt and angry and stops speaking to the rest of her family, especially shunning her dad with whom she was close:
“The truth, I know, is that it’s not my dad I’m really mad at. I’m mad at his disease. And it’s not anger. It’s fear.”
Her parents contact the guidance counselor at school, who insists Payton find something other than her family on which to focus; keep a journal; and write about it. Payton decides to focus on the guy who sits in front of her, Sean Griswold, because she always has to look past his head anyway to see the board. Pretty soon, egged on by her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton is focusing on more than his head, and discovers she likes what she finds out.
But first, Payton has to overcome her fear of losing those she loves, a fear which inevitably extends to her new relationship with Sean. She tries to push him away as she is pushing her dad away. In one of the most humorous passages, Sean’s friend Grady, upset thinking that he had caused the problems between Payton and Sean, cries after being confronted by Payton, and then says:
“I can’t believe I cried. You must be channeling excessive estrogen with all that relationship crap.”
Sean has a lot to offer Payton; not only does he suggest ways to cope with her father’s disease, but gives her good advice as well:
“…if you love something, you hold on to it.”
Evaluation: This is a sweet, poignant book with lots of humor and heart in spite of its heavy subject matter. It has great lessons for teens (e.g., everything isn’t always about you) and is appropriate for tweens as well.
Published by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2011