Fiction

Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio

All my spontaneity would have to be subdued.

Image result for icy sparksIcy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio leaves me confused. I liked this book, no, I loved it, and then I really, really didn’t. I’ll explain that first and then spend most of this review, reviewing the first 90% of the book and pretending the end didn’t happen. The ending was crap. It was a cop out. Sure, many people could probably relate with how the book ended and even applaud, after all it’s a happily ever after ending. To me, it felt like Rubio got to a point and decided, “Nope, I’m done. I’ve written all I care to about this girl’s life and pain and we’re going to end it here on a happy note with hearts, sunshine, and unicorns with rainbows shooting out of its ass.” The last thirty pages of the book were so frustrating and I really wanted more. I wanted to see this girl grow up and find herself without such a clichéd, overused religious trope wrapping things up in a tidy bow where love solves all of life’s problems.

This novel isn’t about Tourette syndrome; it is about life, nothing happens but life and it’s genuine, sweet, funny, boring and interesting. Life is in the conversations and the characters. Life moves forward; we’re talking about nothing and everything. In this story, the “disorder” is just another aspect of Icy’s life. Icy Sparks is the frog child from Icy Creek because of the way her “eyes pop” and she croaks when she has a Tourette’s episode. She’s not like other children and because of her “disorder” she can’t be like other children and isn’t able to fit in. Her community ostracizes her because they don’t understand what’s happening to her, neither does Icy or her grandparents who are raising her. Her only friend is another outcast. Miss Emily’s loneliness invites Icy in because she sees another outcast but Icy is different in a different way and while Miss Emily has come to terms with her state, the loneliness creeps up and sits like a burden on her. Icy, however, isn’t content in her differentness and rails against it and the way she’s treated. Icy Sparks spans the five years Icy turned from a friendly child to an angsty teen. Icy’s outbursts and tics get her kicked out of school and sent to children’s asylum where they don’t know what her disorder is. When she’s fifteen and ostracized from the community, facing loss and becoming a woman, Icy miraculously transforms her life and suddenly fits in (like I mentioned, the ending didn’t fit the book).

I had a disorder, yet I was not a disorderly person.

I guess being thirteen brings out the philosopher in me. Patanni says that I talk everything to death, that all I need to do is sit back and listen. “Ain’t no reason to tell everyone all the thoughts in your head,” as he puts it. But he doesn’t understand my need to speak, my need to draw myself with words. The trees listen, but they don’t talk back. The mountains echo my voice, but they can’t argue with me. I live in the loneliness of my own conversations and need someone, anyone, to talk to, “to dialogue with me” – as Miss Emily always says.

Rubio did a great job of bringing rural Kentucky to life. The novel is driven through storytelling and the vibrantly descriptive characters. They come alive on the pages. We, humans, live despite our differences, our pain, and our obstacles. Tourette’s wasn’t the only issue that Icy faced. She’s a young and intelligent woman, and the conversations about growing up were hilariously awkward and surprisingly uplifting. I laughed and I cried with these characters even though none of them were perfect. Icy was a bit pretentious and rude, regardless of whether she had reason or not, she’s human, struggling just as much as everyone else is.

Icy’s imagination is vast and it does leave the reader questioning how many of the perceived slights actually happened. We’re given the perspective of a child who may not be aware. Granted, her teacher and a nurse at the asylum were horrible to her. Icy’s still a child and her understanding of the world and how people behave is different from an adult’s experienced worldview. Rubio’s descriptions of Icy’s tics (a frog child who pops out her eyes) and the effect of medication (“balloon of skin and bones, was no more than a seed, meant always to float endlessly, to ride the wind.”) bring to life her uncontrollable urges and what’s happening to this girl. Rubio is a good writer, bring this character to life and making us feel for her, grow up with her, and experience life with her, but that ending left a lot to be desired.

 I guess being thirteen brings out the philosopher in me. Patanni says that I talk everything to death, that all I need to do is sit back and listen. “Ain’t no reason to tell everyone all the thoughts in your head,” as he puts it. But he doesn’t understand my need to speak, my need to draw myself with words. The trees listen, but they don’t talk back. The mountains echo my voice, but they can’t argue with me. I live in the loneliness of my own conversations and need someone, anyone, to talk to, “to dialogue with me” – as Miss Emily always says.

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