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Magan: Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt

Book Cover for Sean Griswold

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt  <website twitter>
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 288
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Multiple Sclerosis, sick parent, focus project, counseling
Format read: Purchased the paperback after Lori recommended I read this book.

Summary: After Payton finds out her father has Multiple Sclerosis and stops speaking to her family for keeping the secret from her (for 6 months!) she finds herself in counseling sessions. Her assignment is to find a focus object to help her sort through all of her feelings.

Oh, the days of alphabetical order. I was always at the very end of the line because my maiden name started with a Z. But Payton finds herself in the middle of the alphabet (as a G), and always has to sit behind Sean Griswold in biology class. He has a big head and sometimes it’s a bit distracting when Payton’s trying to take notes and see the board.

It (yep, his head) becomes her focus object when she begins sessions with the school counselor. The focus object is supposed to help her sort through all of her feelings and emotions about her family neglecting to tell her about her dad’s Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. She just happened to walk into her parent’s bedroom while her mother was administering a shot for her dad. Payton shuts them out — she quits basketball (the sport she and her dad loved to bond over) and stops speaking to them entirely.

Naturally, her mom intervenes. Yippie?

This counselor is super strange and her methodology a bit unorthodox. She tells Payton to find a focus object (thinking it would be something simple and inanimate) to journal about. But of course in her act of defiance, Payton chooses Sean’s big head. She and her best friend Jac, who happens to be quite obsessed with the male population, manipulate their way into Sean’s life by stalking him and finding ways to intercept him in hallways. A series of lists, graphs, pie charts, and Sean factoids ensues.

The problem with this focus project is Payton falls for Sean.

He introduces her to bike riding (of the competitive sort) and gives her something to put all her energy into that she used to exhaust during basketball practices and games. She is able to open up to him about all the complexities of her family situation, and instead of being scared away, he reacts in the kindest, most sincere way. (Nope, not telling you what’s involved — read the book!)

Lindsey Leavitt did a phenomenal job tapping into the mindset of a younger high school student — one who is very mature, but also has a lot to learn about life. There’s a lovely balance of friendship, family, and first love. And just as Estelle mentioned in her review of None of the Regular Rules, it was so refreshing to see two girls who are such close friends sort through some difficulties. Oftentimes, friendships in YA seem to be either/or — either they’re perfect or the best friends seem so mismatched and uncharacteristically paired. When it came to Jac and Payton — they’re definitely opposites in just about every way, but they’re very self-aware and (typically) know how to use their strengths to help the other through a tough time.

I know most of you are probably excited about the strong family element, but maybe a little shied away because I mentioned a sick parent. Please note that you shouldn’t be afraid. Sure, I’m kind of a sucker for a good melancholy story, but Leavitt maintained a carefree tone. She certainly didn’t shy away from sharing Payton’s feelings and emotions, but she treated Payton like the strong, brave girl she is without dwelling on the sadness.

Maybe if you’re new to Lindsey Leavitt’s work like I was, you should check out Sean Griswold’s Head and then follow up with Going Vintage — they’re both strong contemporary stories about very real, original girls trying to find their way through the chaos of high school.

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May 28, 2014 - 8:01 am

YA Book Review: The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt - […] Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt ( twitter | website ) Previously Reviewed: Sean Griswold’s Head // Going Vintage Publication Date: May 6, 2014 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s Pages: […]

June 11, 2013 - 9:00 am

Sweet Summertime Reads: Wonderful, Cute + Kind of Perfect (Dates) - […] Add Sean Griswold’s Head on Goodreads Purchase on Amazon Read Magan’s Review […]

March 29, 2013 - 6:17 am

Lori - I’m so happy you loved this one! Payton was such a great character. 🙂

March 28, 2013 - 7:15 am

Maggie @ Young Adult Anonymous - I was pleasantly surprised by this book too. I don’t usually like books that deal with parental illness but I thought it was handled really well and realistically without dragging the story into doom and gloom. Remember the few occasions teachers would go in reverse alphabetical order?? Ah, the good ol’ days.

March 26, 2013 - 5:25 pm

Asheley Tart (@BookwormAsheley) - This sounds really great. I’ve never even read the synopsis for this book before because of the old cover (shallow Ash!) but this cover is much better and the story sounds pretty good. Thanks for putting one on my radar that I’d have never otherwise given a second glance to! I just put it on my library wishlist!

March 18, 2013 - 11:05 pm

Tabitha S. - I hadn’t heard of this one until now! I mean – I knew Lindsey Leavitt had another book, but I didn’t know what it was about. It sounds great, and I’m excited to read about the pie charts! I’m going to go buy this one now, SUCH a good deal. (:

March 18, 2013 - 10:31 pm

Liz (Along for the Read) - I never knew that was what this book was about. I have heard great things about it, but apparently never anything very specific. I honestly always assumed it was a lighter hearted book, but now that I know, I really want to read it.

March 18, 2013 - 8:08 pm

Bookworm1858 - I’m so glad you liked this book-it’s my favorite Leavitt so far and one I recommend to people who like lighter YA contemporary (or want to give that genre a try). Just a great family, friendship, and yes love story.

March 18, 2013 - 7:49 pm

Maria - I’d completely forgotten it was Leavitt who wrote this book! It’s been on my list for a really long time but never close to actually being read.
The new cover is very different…

March 18, 2013 - 7:49 pm

Holly - I’m glad that you enjoyed this book! 🙂 I’m actually reading it right now. I’m about half-way through and I love it! I agree with you, Lindsey Leavitt did a good job with writing about Payton and the whole situation with her dad! Great review! 🙂

March 18, 2013 - 6:37 pm

Leela @ My world in English - Ooooo I’m glad you liked because I’ve just bought the book 🙂

I can’t wait to read it ^^

March 18, 2013 - 1:54 pm

Alexa Y. - I’ll be honest and say that I was probably not too attracted to the title of this book. But after reading your review, it actually sounds like a book I’d enjoy – and so I think I’m going to have to give it a chance now. I’m a sucker for books with good friendships and interesting stories, and this one hits both marks!

March 18, 2013 - 12:06 pm

elena - I’ve never read anything by Lindsay but I’m curious! I totally get what you mean about being the end of the alphabet, blergh. Sean sounds like an ADORABLE character. also, YES for girl friendships! I will try to read this one!

March 18, 2013 - 10:50 am

Kelsie - How funny. I just picked this as my next book to read and then immediately afterward visited your blog and saw this review. As a reader in my 20s, I’m glad to see that the characters showed some maturity and this isn’t just a cheesy tween read. 🙂

March 18, 2013 - 9:55 am

Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook - I’ve heard really good things about this one. I’ve read Going Vintage, which I liked but didn’t love. But I think I am going to get this one from the library and give it a try.

Thanks for the review 🙂

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