Andrew Smith, Andrew Smith Event, Book Review, Coming-of-Age, Death, Family, Fiction, Friendship, Grief/Recovery, Ranching, Young Adult

Review: Ghost Medicine by Andrew Smith

Ghost Medicine by Andrew Smith
Final Verdict: 3.0 out of 4.0
YTD: 32

3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.

Ghost Medicine is Andrew Smith’s debut novel and, though there are some similarities to his later works (elements of danger, young protagonists, brotherly relationships at the core of the narrative), it is also quite a bit different.  The story is about Troy Stotts, a teenager who lives alone with his father and who is trying to deal with the loss of his mother.  He and his friends set out to have a summer of “Ghost Medicine” – a summer in where time stands still.  Troy works on the Benavidez ranch, owned by his best friend’s father.  The girl Troy is crushing on just happens to be Troy’s best friend’s sister, so a delicate balancing act beings, wherein Troy must figure out how to maintain his friendship with Gabriel while also building his relationship with Gabe’s sister, Luz. Joining this trio for a summer of danger and wild abandon are Tom Buller, a rough-shod ranch-hand youngin’ who is impossible not to fall in love with, and Chase Rutledge and his father, the deputy sheriff, one of whom harbors a violent anger toward Troy and his friends, the other of whom wants nothing but to retire with his full pension, even if that means lying about or ignoring his son’s misdeeds. It is a thrilling, precarious, life-changing summer – a summer none of them will ever forget.

3 – Characters well-developed.

Troy Stotts and Tom Buller might be two of my new favorite characters in YA fiction.  Tom Buller, especially, was impossible not to be attracted to; his primary characteristics include a hilarious sense of humor, a strong sensitivity, and a die-hard loyalty to his friends.  Troy, too, is incredibly loyal and brave, although a bit self-involved at times (he heads off for days at a time, and at all hours of the day/night, without much concern for how his Dad will worry).  Their friendship and the relationship they build with a lonely older woman, is indicative of what the summer of Ghost Medicine is all about: passion, freedom, and doing what’s right.  The two, together, are a joy to watch and, with the addition of Gabriel, Luz, Mr. Benavidez and other solid supporting characters, allows for a moving and entertaining story, progressing the plot in ways the narration does not always manage to do.  

3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the Story.

Smith is clearly a talented writer and storyteller and though this is his first novel, it demonstrates an understanding of language, pace, and tone that makes it clear to readers: “This is a writer.”  The story, though, does move rather slowly – it felt, sometimes, like swimming through molasses – liquid enough to move forward, but at a reduced pace.  Perhaps this is fitting, considering the story takes place in a dusty old ranch town, far from the nearest city.  Things are bound to be slowed down, here, and Smith’s prose does make the reader feel that.  Fortunately, the story does move forward without stalling, even if it is going slowly.  The characterization and the minor hints at danger and intrigue create just enough tension to keep things interesting, and keep the pages turning. 

Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
3 – Additional elements are present and cohesive to the Story.

Perhaps the most interesting sub-elements of the plot are the various forms of “Medicine” that Troy creates, to suit certain situations that the boys (and Luz) find themselves in throughout the story.  Some Medicine makes them strong and some makes them disappear.  But the Ghost Medicine makes them have a summer that will last forever.  Troy is on the cusp of manhood and this summer is really the last between his boyhood and his adulthood – the story is not just about him coming to terms with the loss of his mother, but also with the loss of his innocence, his childish freedom.  His friends are on a similar path, except for Gabey who everyone seems hell-bent on trying to protect and to save from growing-up.  Unfortunately, the events of the summer do not spare anyone.  We all must grow up sometime.  

Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: MG+
Interest: Friendship, Family, Coming-of-Age, First Love, Rural South, Ranching, Grief/Recovery, Loss, Death/Dying

Andrew Smith, Andrew Smith Event, Read-Alongs

Wrap-Up: Stick by Andrew Smith

So, we have come to the end of Book 2 in our Andrew Smith Summer reading plan!  I don’t know about you, but I have had a great experience with both books (In the Path of Falling Objects and Stick) so far.  I’m really looking forward to our August choice, Ghost Medicine, the discussion for which will be hosted over at Not Now, I’m Reading.

I really only have one question this week:  What did YOU think of the book?  Were you surprised by the ending?  How did you feel about Bosten’s situation and about Stick’s determination to find his older brother?  Do you have hope for the boys and their future?

If you’re interested in what I thought, over all, feel free to check out my review.  There will also be a giveaway of our September book, The Marbury Lens, coming soon from Smash Attack Reads, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

See you next week for Discussion 1 of Ghost Medicine!

August: Ghost Medicine (Hosted by Not Now…I’m Reading)

  • 8/4: Chapter 1 – 8
  • 8/11: Chapter 9 – 15
  • 8/18: Chapter 16 – 22
  • 8/25: Chapter 23 – 29
Andrew Smith, Andrew Smith Event, Read-Alongs


Welcome to the Discussion Post for Part 3 (Pages 107-216) of Stick by Andrew Smith.


1.  In the first part of “Next”, we meet three new characters: Aunt Dahlia, Evan and Kim.  These three seem clearly different from those in Bosten & Stick’s home world (even different from the characters who aren’t as crazy as the boys’ parents).  Is Smith drawing some kind of distinction between regions?  Is there something distinctly “Californian” and something distinctly “Washingtonian” about these worlds – and, if so, where do the boys belong?  Wherever it is, do they still belong together? 

2.  Paul & Bosten break-up.  Paul & Bosten get back together.  Paul is gay, then bisexual.  He is with Bosten, then he is with a girl and can’t have that kind of relationship with Bosten ever again.  But, then they get back together.  Is the back-and-forth here believable – why or why not?  Is this normal teenage exploration/confusion?  Does the difficulty do anything (positive or negative) for the story overall?

3.  The boys’ parents split up and, while Stick is staying with Emily, he gets a phone call from his mother.  On the call, she sounds somewhat different – more parental than we have seen her in the past.  Is this an expected change?  We see “Dad’s” rage in full force not much later, so he clearly hasn’t changed, but is it possible that “Mom” might have been molded by Dad?  Or are they both equally brutal, separate or apart?  

4.  And, all hell breaks loose.  Bosten is gone, Stick hits the road to find him & encounters a world of danger.  Willie and April are creepy from the start, and the old cracked-out dudes who want stick to “pay” his way to California are certainly just as disgusting as the boys’ Dad, which begs the question:  Are so many perverts necessary to the success of this plot?  The book is meant to have some shock value, but how believable is it that the boys would each run into pedophiles at nearly every turn?

That’s it for this week!  Looking forward to a great discussion!  Feel free to add anything else you feel is valuable, or ask any other questions you might have yourself, now that we’re two-thirds of the way in… Don’t forget to check back next Saturday, when we will be discussing the end of the book, “Last” (Pages 216-End).

July: Stick (Hosted by Roof Beam Reader)

  • 7/7: First (Part 1): Pages 2-59
  • 7/14: First (Part 2): Pages 60-103
  • 7/21: Next (Part 1): Pages 107-216
  • 7/28: Last (Part 2): Pages 216-292

So, we are coming to the end of Stick.  Up next is Ghost Medicine, which will be hosted in August by Not Now, I’m Reading!

August: Ghost Medicine (Hosted by Not Now…I’m Reading)

  • 8/4: Chapter 1 – 8
  • 8/11: Chapter 9 – 15
  • 8/18: Chapter 16 – 22
  • 8/25: Chapter 23 – 29
Andrew Smith, Andrew Smith Event, Blog Post, Read-Alongs


Welcome to the Discussion Post for Part 1 (Pages 60-103) of Stick by Andrew Smith.


1.  Early in Part 2, Stick compares his mother to two women, first to Emily (comparing their bathrooms) and then to Mrs. Lohman (Stick’s mom with a cigarette & knife in her hands, threatening him about spending time on the phone; and Mrs. Lohman telling him how they would love to have him over anytime.  Then comes Mrs. BuckLey and Stick’s comment: “Something was happening to me. Everything was changing.” Is it important for Stick to realize these distinctions, between his mother and other women?  Do you think women will ultimately play a larger role in his story?

2.  Oh, boy – did Bosten have a secret, or what!?  Did you see this coming?   How is it likely to impact the nature between Bosten and Stick, and the relationship between Bosten (and/or both the boys) and their parents?

3.  Saint Fillan’s Room.  It has to be mentioned – what do we think about this?  We talked last week about the parents being physically abusive, but this room adds a whole new level to it, doesn’t it?  Think about how the boys have to clean it – empty and scrub the pail – after they were beaten in that room and left there in solitude, sometimes for days at a time.  I have to ask again – what’s up Mom & Dad!?

4. At one point in this segment, Stick makes the point: “I wasn’t sure how punching someone would make me feel like having balls made a difference.”  Ironically, later on, he actually does get hit in the balls, hard, and finally stands up for himself by punching the guy in the nose.  Other than this being great irony, what does it say about stick – both his early statement and the fact that he finally stood up for himself?  Could it have anything to do with what Emily said about Stick making fun of himself?

5. Dad. We’re finally beginning to understand. So, it seems when he is drunk, his true nature and problem comes out – but only with Bosten.  Why do you think Dad confuses Stick for Bosten – and, if he hadn’t passed out, do you think Stick saying who he was would have mattered?  Now that Stick knows what’s been happening, and he and Bosten have talked about it, what next?


Don’t forget to check back next Saturday, when we will be discussing Part 2 (Pages 107-216).

July: Stick (Hosted by Roof Beam Reader)

  • 7/7: First (Part 1): Pages 2-59
  • 7/14: First (Part 2): Pages 60-103
  • 7/21: Next (Part 1): Pages 107-216
  • 7/28: Next (Part 2): Pages 216-292

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 (today)!

Andrew Smith, Andrew Smith Event, Blog Post, Read-Alongs

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!

Andrew Smith, Andrew Smith Event, Read-Alongs, Uncategorized

July Read-Along: Stick by Andrew Smith

Hello, People and Things!

Today is July 1st – Which means it is time to start reading the next book in our Andrew Smith summer read-along schedule!  Our selection for July is Stick – and I will be hosting this time around!  I absolutely loved this book – so I’m looking forward to reading it again and posting discussion questions each Saturday.  

If you haven’t already registered for the event, please check out the information below, which explains how to join!  There are Giveaways and other events associated with Andrew Smith Saturdays (as if the AWESOME books weren’t enough!) – so I do hope you’ll come along for the ride! 

Discussion Plan for July: Stick (Hosted by Roof Beam Reader)

  • 7/7: First (Part 1): Pages 2-59
  • 7/14: First (Part 2): Pages 60-103
  • 7/21: Next (Part 1): Pages 107-216
  • 7/28: Next (Part 2): Pages 216-292

Our Andrew Smith book choice for August is Ghost Medicine and there’s a Giveaway copy being offered by Not Now, I’m Reading!  One lucky participant will win a copy of the book – so be sure to register and then head over to Not Now, I’m Reading for your chance!


You must register for this event and participate in order to be eligible for prizes.

Register Here.

Where to Buy Stick:

The Book Depository

Barnes and Noble

2012 Challenges, Andrew Smith, Andrew Smith Event, Blog Post, Blog Tour, Catherine Ryan Hyde, Don't Miss It Monday, Giveaway, Giveaway Hop, Giveaways, Victorian Celebration

Don’t Miss It Monday!

Hi, Folks!

I’m not typically one for monthly or weekly “recap” posts, but there is SO MUCH happening at this month and this summer, that I thought it would be a good idea to put it all together in one post and remind everyone about what’s going on.  I’m including some major events that are taking place here at, as well as some big events hosted elsewhere, but in which I’m participating (I think many of you might want to get involved in these as well!). 

Andrew Smith Summer Event

Register for the Event HERE.

Enter to win a copy of July’s book, Stick, HERE.

Participate in Week 1 Discussion of In the Path of Falling Objects HERE.

Why Join?: Andrew Smith’s books are CRAZY good and terribly under-appreciated. Giveaways, interviews, guest posts, group discussions, and more!

Catherine Ryan Hyde Event

Hosted by: Roof Beam Reader & Shooting Stars Mag.

Sign-Up to Join the Pay It Forward Giveaway Hop HERE (Closes June 20th; Event June 23-30).

Why Join?: This event is all about showing appreciation to our blog readers/subscribers, by giving away some of our favorite things!

Purchase a Book or Spread the Word to Win Awesome Prize Packs HERE (Deadline June 23rd).

Why Participate?: The author is amazing and the prize packages are crazy!

A Victorian Celebration (June & July)

Hosted By: Allie of A Literary Odyssey.

Register to Participate HERE.

Why Join?: Lots of great giveaways, guest posts, etc. Plus, tons of good reading!

Enter to win a copy of North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell HERE (Ends June 8th).

Books I Plan to Read:

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain, The Haunted House by Charles Dickens, Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, and The Warden by Anthony Trollope (Plus Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens, if I have time).

Other Items of Note

Join the Literary Blog Hop HERE (Closes June 20th; Event June 23-27). Hosted by Leeswammes.

Random Acts of Kindness June Event HERE. Hosted by Book Soulmates.