Sprout by Dale Peck

Bloomsbury, 2009      ISBN: 978-1-59990-160-2 $16.99

Sprout (so known for his dyed green hair) and his dad have moved from Long Island to the middle of nowhere in Kansas after the death of Sprout’s mother. His father settles them into a trailer on some land outside of town, and spends most of his time drinking.

Sprout gets the usual hazing at school, but finds a friend in Ruth Wilcox, another smart outsider. Mrs. Miller, the Senior English teacher decides he should enter into the state essay contest, and having nothing better to do, Sprout agrees to tutoring and essay time trials all summer vacation, with the hard-drinking teacher. But Sprout has a secret—or a few of them, and after struggling with the decision, he finally decides to tell Mrs. Miller that he is gay and that he wants to write about that in the contest.

He’s got a thing (mostly physical) going on with a guy at school, who would never acknowledge their relationship, but meanwhile, he is developing a relationship with Ty, a kid even newer to the school than he.

Ty lives near him, and is under the very violent control of his father. The two boys sneak around together, becoming friends, and then more. When they are found out at school, Sprout, for no reason that he can understand, betrays Ty, who then disappears into the winter with no money and nowhere to go.

Sprout is an engaging character, and this is a beautifully written book; funny at times, and very serious at others, as it portrays gay teens dealing with the struggles to survive at home and at school. The tragic ending is reminiscent of GLBT titles for teens from the early 1970s, but the novel will make the reader think hard about the issues and the choices that the characters make.

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Filed under **** Highly recommended, 2000s

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