Discussion: Stick by Andrew Smith (Part 1)

Welcome to the Discussion Post for Part 1 (Pages 2-59) of Stick by Andrew Smith.

1.  Last month, we read In the Path of Falling Objects which had, as its protagonists, two brothers with quite an interesting relationship.  A third brother, absent from the main story, was also involved. Here again, with Stick, the main characters are brothers.  What do you think of their dynamic so far?  Do you have any expectations for them individually, or for their relationship?

2.  Stark “Stick” McClellan, our main character, is different in a few ways.  First of all, although he is only 13 years old, he is already six feet tall – which is taller than his older brother.  But, even more importantly, he has a physical deformity which impacts his every day life and relationships.  The deformity is mirrored in the prose.  Do you think this effective, so far?  Are there other examples you can think of, from other books, where a main characters’ “something other” is somehow reflected in the book’s prose or structure? 

3.  The brothers seem pretty different  – Bosten is pretty bold, he smokes pot, and seems like an easy-going guy, the kind people like to be around.  Stick, on the other hand, is (understandably) more of an introvert.  He hates even the smell of pot, and doesn’t seem like the biggest risk-taker in the world.  Despite their differences, the brothers seem very close.  Why do you think their relationship is so strong?  Do you get the impression that their bond will survive anything?

4.  Mom and Dad.  They seem to be a pretty good team, themselves. But for different reasons.  Right away, we get an “Us vs. Them” feeling, between the boys and the parents.  When the boys come home late and walk into an onslaught of violence, Stick narrates: “Maybe once per week things exactly like this happened in our house.”  Where do you think the anger comes from?  Are there any hints about some deeper issues, or do you think, as Stick says, this is just the way things are done in their household?

5.  And Emily.  Friend?  More than a friend?  Her words seem to be saying one thing (Friend) but her actions seem to be hinting at a desire for more.  We haven’t seen much, yet, but does this seem like it could be a good thing for Stick?  Would a relationship with Emily be a healthy one?  Or does this seem doomed to fail, from the start?

Can’t wait to see what you all think of this one, so far!  I’ll reply with my own answers in a few days, after others have a chance to say what they think. 

Don’t forget to check back next Saturday, when we will be discussing Part 2 (Pages 60-103).

Also, have you entered to win a copy of next month’s Andrew Smith book,Ghost Medicine?  Head over to Not Now, I’m Reading for your chance!  The giveaway ends July 14th!

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5 thoughts on “Discussion: Stick by Andrew Smith (Part 1)

  1. So far, I’m adoring Stick and Bosten’s relationship. I think they look out for each other and especially support each other in their abusive home. Bosten is slightly irresponsible, though in the best way a teenager can be.

    I LOVE that Andrew Smith wrote Stick’s perspective in the fashion he did. I think it is very impactful and constantly reminds you of his personal struggles with it.

    I think opposite personalities can work very well, because you then become a balanced whole. I say this from experience with my husband, but I think it can work in any kind of relationship, as long as one party does not abuse the dynamic.

    I haven’t gotten a hold on Mom and Dad’s issues yet, but they obviously have some! Child abuse occurs for various reasons, such as the parents being raised in a similar environment, or not being able to release anger in a positive way. Childhood certainly morphs you into who you are as an adult, though you always have the power to overcome your own demons. I’m curious to learn of the parents’ issues.

    Emily is still a mystery to me. On the surface, she appears to be a wonderful person. I hope she stays that way.

    • Great thoughts!

      Re: the parents. I think what intrigues me most is that they’re BOTH abusive. Usually, you see it in one or the other. The scene where the Mom is gripping Stick’s hair and pulling on it (almost in pleasure?) while the Dad is beating Bosten… that gets to me! It was surprising – I’m used to seeing a weak parent (usually the mother, sometimes the dad) who won’t stand up to the abuser, but they both seem vile.

  2. I just want to say that I am hooked and that after I post this, I am probably going to read next week’s section (but I’ll try to be good and stop at 103 like I’m supposed to).

    So, to answer your questions:
    1. I really love the relationship Stick and Bosten have with one another. I think it is another example of an actual relationship between siblings. I am always irritated by YA novels where the siblings hate each other, or when neglects the other in an incident with an adult. I think the way that Bosten looks out for his younger brother in endearing. I know that I looked out for my sister when she was younger…and that I fiercely protect all my siblings (and in-laws) if I need to.

    I also kind of adore the fact that Stick looks up to his brother so much. It’s obvious that he would be at even more of a disadvantage with kids at school and his parents without Bosten. And while Bosten seems to be a “crazy” kid, he’s doing what teenage boys do-testing his limits and those of the people around him.

    2. I’m really drawn to the writing style and how Stick’s narration echoes his deformity. I like when books, especially written in this viewpoint, echo the character’s voice. 🙂

    3. In regards to their relationship…in the case of abuse, the kids usually either break apart, or bond together. The older siblings look out for the younger ones, and that is what I see here. Although, I have a feeling the parents will push things too far and Bosten will high-tail it out of there…

    4. And the parents? *sigh* Stories with abusive incidents always strike a nerve for me. Matt’s real father was abusive, so we have dealt with those demons in the past. I really have a hard time with those kinds of situations. I think the parents are struggling with issues of their own-dealing with Stick’s deformity and doing things the way they were done to them (abuse is a cycle, so chances are one or both of them were abused in this way as a child). I think there has to be a little more to it-as in why BOTH parents seem to enjoy the beating….

    5. Emily seems to be an interesting character from the few moments we’ve spent with her. Like Stick, she’s isolated from the other kids and seems to be more of a loner. But unlike Stick, she’s okay with that status and doesn’t let it get to her. She’s the kind of kid I wished I could be when I was younger. With the bath scene…well, I think more is coming in their relationship to each other! (and her parents are awesome-I’m sure they know something is up at home and are doing their best to take care of Stick in their own way).

    • Emily’s parents remind me of friends’ parents I knew in High School – one of the things I like so much about Andrew Smith is that the plot and action of his stories are sometimes so crazy, but the people so real!

  3. Sorry this is late…. but I still wanted to join the conversation.
    1. I think Stick and Bosten’s dynamics as brothers is endearing. It’s to be expected when you live in a situation as they do. You either fend for yourself or you attach to others who understand and stick together. It’s not like either one is going to go to an outside person and say this is what’s going on; it’s the debilitating belief that what is happening is completely normal. For Stick, i hope that he learns to stand up for himself, instead of just taking the mistreatment of his peers. For Bosten, I hope he finds freedom, so he doesn’t have to try to escape as much.

    2. I like the way the prose matches his deformity. In a way it allows us to read the world are Stick lives it.

    3. I think that their bond is strong because of the shared abuse that they go through. Bosten tends to be the protector of Stick, and not just from the people outside of his family but from his parents as well. I think that it is a tough bond, but one that can be broken. If Stick begins to resent Bosten for his sympathy and for always protecting him it can be broken. But I think it is a bond that, if broken, it will be done by the brothers themselves.

    4. The parents have issues. I don’t believe that everyone that becomes a parent has that instinct, or that moment where it clicks that you have another person to care for and are responsible for. Anyone who abuses another, has faced it in the past somehow in some form. The abuse is not normal, but it is the way that it’s done in their household. Why? That remains to be seen. Maybe it is connected to Stick’s deformity. But then why force him to show the world if you’re also ashamed of it? Maybe the parents believe that he is being punished and the abuse is well-deserved. Who knows?

    5. I am still up in the air with Emily. I mean even if she believes that taking a bath together is perfectly normal and means absolutely nothing, I have to ask what would her parents say? I mean they are only 13. But, from what I’ve read so far, this relationship could go either way. Encouraging him to stand up for himself and to not be bother by his ear are both positive and healthy things.

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