Dear Ms. Leavitt:
I bought this when it was the Kindle Daily Deal and for $1.99 it was a worthwhile read. Payton Gritas is a by the books, orderly sort of girl who saves her money to buy the nicest day planner ever and is excited to use different color highlighters to differentiate her tasks. Her world is thrown off kilter by the announcement that her father has MS.
Payton responds by plungingheadlong into rebellion. Of course her rebellion is fear driven but she acts out in incredibly selfish ways. She quits the basketball team because it is the one way in which her father and she connected. She starts to ignore her schoolwork resulting in bad grades. She gets in fights with her best friend. She stops talking to her parents.
Her school counselor gives her an assignment to focus on something and Payton decides it will be Sean Griswold’s head. She has sat behind him since the first grade. As she stares at his head and begins to journal about it, she finds herself increasingly curious about what goes on inside Sean’s head. Anything that takes her mind off her father’s illness becomes fascinating.
Payton comes off as a stereotypical teenager – full of myopic emo and not really caring about hurting those around her. Thoughtfulness is not her forte. It’s easy to get tired of Payton but obviously the threat of losing her dear father drove her to some unkind actions. Her best friend, Jac, points out that Payton’s life has been pretty perfect up until that point and that she didn’t appreciate how fortunate she was.
Inside Sean’s head is a love for cycling and Payton takes that up as well. As Payton insinuates her way into Sean’s life, she begins to see how interesting other people are. Initially, she had little patience for any one who was different than her own expectations. As for the romance, it was there, it was cute but it wasn’t important.
The focus ended up being biking and I liked that she learned a lesson that didn’t include a boy. In other words, her emotional success wasn’t the love of a boy, but some kind of self realization. I don’t know that she ever fully got to where she needed to be but she was only 16. Payton’s age and unfinished feel of her character arc led to some disappointment. I do wonder if the nature of the book, YA, is part of the problems that I had with the book. C