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Icy Sparks: A young girl deals with Tourette's syndrome in Oprah's Book Club pick

What does it feel like to be a 10-year-old girl with Tourette's syndrome?

In another great pick from Oprah's Book Club comes "Icy Sparks," a story of a young girl forced to deal with the backlash from a disease that in her little piece of the world was not diagnosed, written by Gwyn Hyman Rubio

The story is set on a farm in rural Poplar Hollar, Ky., a place where gossip is a favorite pastime, and people still walk to get where they need to go. Icy is a pretty little girl being raised by her grandparents, from whom she tries to hide her jerks, tics, eye-popping and cursing.

Icy's symptoms become worse at school when confronted with a hostile teacher and classmates who don't understand or don't want to understand, and would just as soon call her a frog because of an uncontrollable croaking noise that accompanies her episodes.

Icy is considered the "crazy girl" in town and is shunned by her neighbors, all except for Miss Emily, a large woman who knows how it feels because she is herself shunned because of her size. When things get uncontrollable at school, Icy is sent to a school for special children. There she meets Maizy, a woman who remains an integral part of her life and shows her that beauty comes from within ourselves.

Rubio shows us through her writing that compassion and taking the time to understand the differences in each other can make a huge impact on someone else's life and make our hearts lighter.

Editorial Reviews Reviews
The eponymous heroine of Gwyn Rubio's Icy Sparks is only 10 years old the first time it happens. The sudden itching, the pressure squeezing her skull, and the "little invisible rubber bands" attached to her eyelids are all symptoms of Tourette's syndrome. At this point, of course, Icy doesn't yet have a name for these unsettling impulses. But whenever they become too much to resist, she runs down to her grandparents' root cellar, and there she gives in, croaking, jerking, cursing, and popping her eyes. Nicknamed the "frog child" by her classmates, Icy soon becomes "a little girl who had to keep all of her compulsions inside." Only a brief confinement at the Bluegrass State Hospital persuades her that there are actually children more "different" than she.
As a first novel about growing up poor, orphaned, and prone to fits in a small Appalachian town, Icy Sparks tells a fascinating story. By the time the epilogue rolls around, Icy has prevailed over her disorder and become a therapist: "Children silent as stone sing for me. Children who cannot speak create music for me." For readers familiar with this particular brand of coming-of-age novel--affliction fiction?--Icy's triumph should come as no great surprise. That's one problem. Another is Rubio's tendency to lapse into overheated prose: this is a novel in which the characters would sooner yell, pout, whine, moan, or sass a sentence than simply say it. But the real drawback to Icy Sparks is that some of the characters--especially the bad ones--are drawn with very broad strokes indeed, and the moral principles tend to be equally elementary: embrace your difference, none of us is alone, and so on. When Icy gets saved at a tent revival, even Jesus takes on the accents of a self-help guru: "You must love yourself!" With insights like these, this is one Southern novel that's more Wally Lamb than Harper Lee. --Mary Park --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly
The diagnosis of Tourette's Syndrome isn't mentioned until the last pages of Rubio's sensitive portrayal of a young girl with the disease. Instead, Rubio lets Icy Sparks tell her own story of growing up during the 1950s in a small Kentucky town where her uncontrollable outbursts make her an object of fright and scorn. "The Saturday after my [10th] birthday, the eye blinking and poppings began.... I could feel little invisible rubber bands fastened to my eyelids, pulled tight through my brain and... read more --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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