Congratulations to Connie Saunders who won THE LITTLE THIEVES audio book from last week's blog and to Rosi Hollinbeck who won DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE.
Tourette (too-RET) syndrome: a disorder that involves repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that can't be easily controlled. For instance, you might repeatedly blink your eyes, shrug your shoulders or blurt out unusual sounds or offensive words.
If you've never heard of Tourette syndrome and you're interested in reading a remarkable young adult book which conveys the physical, mental, and psychological pain associated with this disorder, the List of Ten by my friend Halli Gomez is a book for you.
For ten years, sixteen-year-old Troy Hayes has lived with the diagnosis that he shares with his estranged mother: Tourette syndrome. Troy not only suffers from uncontrollable muscle twitches that are accompanied by severe pain, he also has obsessive compulsive disorder. The two together make his academic and social life unbearable. Troy decides that the only way out of his pain is to kill himself.
By page two the reader knows it is only a matter of Troy getting through the other nine items on his "to do" list that he keeps on his phone, before he will take his own life which is #10 on his list.
So, how did Halli Gomez write a 353-page book and keep the reader interested since the ending has already been revealed?
By raising the question--does he do it? And by hooking every reader into hoping and believing that he doesn't.
By using deep point of view, Troy's conflicting thoughts and torturous emotions are shown on the first pages. Through his eyes we meet Khory Price, a girl imprisoned in her own life of pain. She is someone who is able to look beyond his compulsion to touch a dirty floor multiple times as he walks down the school hallway, a girl who finds him cute and smart, and a girl who he becomes afraid to hurt.
The novel is full of teenage angst as Troy moves from just being Khory's math tutor, to being a friend, to becoming her boyfriend. He finally wins her protective parents' trust only to blow it when he tries to drive and his erratic behavior on the road attracts police attention. He's busted for driving without a license and his friend is busted for having marijuana papers in the car. But Troy is no normal teenager. The shadow of his list of ten things to do before he kills himself pervades all of his thoughts and drives many of his choices.
Khory is a well-developed, authentic secondary character. She has struggles with her own parents, guilt over being a surviving twin, and gives Troy reasons to think about his purpose in life.
Beyond amazing "showing not telling" what it feels like to be a person with Tourette, my other favorite parts of the book are when Troy begins wrestling with his decision to kill himself. When his science teacher tells him he has potential, when he is an inspiration to another family whose son has Tourette, when he realizes how Khory will feel when she realizes he lied to her--these were all very authentic and compelling conflicts.
My least favorite part of the book was when Troy's father attempts to have a discussion about sex and ends the conversation by giving his son condoms. I know I'm in the minority, but I don't believe literature for young adults should include frank permissiveness toward sex.
So, how does List of Ten end? I won't tell you! But, it is satisfying and it is hopeful. And that should be enough to make you want to read it!