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Fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he's tall and thin) is bullied for being "deformed" – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always there to defend...
Fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he's tall and thin) is bullied for being "deformed" – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always there to defend...
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  • Fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he's tall and thin) is bullied for being "deformed" – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always there to defend Stick. But the boys can't defend one another from their abusive parents.

    When Stick realizes Bosten is gay, he knows that to survive his father's anger, Bosten must leave home. Stick has to find his brother, or he will never feel whole again. In his search, he will encounter good people, bad people, and people who are simply indifferent to kids from the wrong side of the tracks. But he never loses hope of finding love – and his brother.

  • Copyright 2011 by Andrew Smith. All rights reserved. For information, address Feiwel and Friends, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.


    FIRST: saint fillan's room

    What would you hear if my words could make

    sounds? And if they did, what music would I

    write for you?

    They call me Stick.

    I am six feet tall, an inch taller than my brother, Bosten, who is in eleventh grade.

    I'm thirteen, and a stick.

    My real first name is Stark, which, in my opinion, is worse than being called Stick. It was my great-grandfather's name, and I suppose my parents were all into connecting with our roots or something when they decided to put it on me. My great-grandstick lived and died in Ireland and never once set eyes on me in his entire life. But I'm pretty sure he'd call me Stick, too, if he ever had.

    A lot of times, after people learn my name, they'll say things like, "Oh. What an unusual name," which, to me, sounds the same as, "Look at that poor, deformed boy"

    And when they learn that I don't care to be called Stark, they'll offer some consolation.

    "I'll bet you come to like that name when you're grown up."

    The only things I can think of that people like more after they grow up are alcohol and cigarettes.

    My parents smoke all the time.

    I am as unremarkable as canned green beans.

    It bothers me when people stare at me. Most of the time, they can't help doing it on account of my missing right ear.

    Besides that, with first names like ours, my brother and I may just as well walk around waving signs saying LOOK AT us. At least where we grew up, in Washington State, boys were all pretty much expected to have names like "Chip" or "Robert."

    But not Bosten and Stark McClellan.


    The world sounds different to me than it does to anyone else. Pretty much all of the time, it sounds like this.

    Half my head is quiet.

    I was born this way.

    Most people don't notice it right away, but once they do, I see their faces; I watch how they'll move around toward that side—the one with the missing part—so they can see what's wrong with me.

    So, here. Look at me.

    I'm ugly.

    When you see me at first, I look like just another teenage boy, only too tall and too skinny. Square on, staring into my headlights, and you're probably going to think I look nice, a handsome kid, even—green eyes, brown hair, a relaxed kind of face (from not smiling too much, probably). But then get around to that side, and you see it. I have what looks like the outline of a normal boy's ear, but it's pressed down into the flesh, squashed like potter's clay. No hole—a canal, they call it.

    Nothing gets into my head that way.

    I can't easily hide it because my dad won't let me grow my hair long. He yells at me if I wear a hat indoors. He says there's nothing wrong with me.

    But I'm ugly. You see what I'm doing, don't you? I am making you hear me. The way I hear the world. But I won't do it too much, I promise.

    I know what it can do to you.

    I know what it can do to you to not have that hole there.

    Humans need that hole, so things can get out.

    Things get into my head and they bounce around and around until they find a way out.

    My mother never talks about my ear. She hardly ever talks to me at all.

    I believe she is sad, horrified. I think she blames herself.

    Mostly, I think she wishes I was never born.


    On a Friday afternoon in March, everything started changing.

    Next to Bosten, my best friend was Emily Lohman. She was in eighth grade, too, and she was the only kid I knew who never made fun of me.

    Her perfection amazed me.

    It was the end of winter.

    We lived by the sea.

    When Bosten was younger, the three of us would walk from my parents' house down to the beach. We'd go...

About the Author-
  • Andrew Smith is the author of Ghost Medicine and The Marbury Lens, both of which were named American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults. He is also the author of In the Path of Falling Objects. In addition to writing, he teaches high school advanced placement classes and coaches rugby. He lives in Southern California with his family, in a rural location in the mountains.

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