by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
Description via Goodreads
No, Miss Emily had not a clue as to what ailed me. She could stop herself from eating. I, on the other hand, couldn't help what I did. My urges controlled me. Nevertheless, in Miss Emily's eyes, we were the same. She was the orphan of Ginseng; I was the orphan of Poplar Holler. If she had her way, she'd used our strangeness to unite us (38)
Icy Sparks is a serious yet playful story of a young girl named Icy Sparks, whose adolescence is marred by tics and outbursts she can't control. Icy learns about the value of the truth from a young age. She knows how both her parents died and how their dispositions may have affected her own. She knows she's different and feels her difference should be kept a secret. But the longer she keeps her secrets, the longer the pressure builds and the greater the outburst. These outbursts drastically affect Icy and her relationship with everyone she encounters in the small rural Kentucky community.
Icy is a great character...I can't decide if she's rudely honest or honestly rude. Either way it's charming. I think the author is successful at spotlighting a seriously misunderstood topic in a very humorous and relatable way, with such a character. The narrative is sprinkled with bits like this:
I stared at Wilma's stomach, which was puffing out more than usual, and at her mustache, which had become thicker and hardier in the past few weeks, and gagged at her being pregnant and even harder at the thought of her being the Virgin Mary. "Poor baby Jesus," I whispered. (169)
There are similar interactions between Icy and her best friend and teacher, Emily. Icy spares no feelings about her friend's obesity...They're an interesting duo. I was conflicted because I knew Miss Emily loved Icy and wanted to elevate her, but I didn't know by how much. I wasn't always convinced she wanted Icy to do better; they were outcasts together after all. I'm mostly referring to the exchange they shared over being 'touched'. And by 'touched' I do mean intimately. It was one of the more awkward sections of the book. And yet completely necessary. I think Emily's relationship to Icy worked well because it demonstrates that there are good and bad parts to everyone...and everyone has their own demons.
Overall, this book was good...until the last 50 pages. And I know it had everything to do with Icy's resolution--her epiphany (albeit met with resistance) at the Revival. It shouldn't bother me but it does...the fact that finally succumbing to church theatrics gave her an answer. It was so over the top, so unlike the rest of the book that it threw me off. I think Icy's character was very likeable, interesting and believable, that to toss God in there when she wasn't truly religious was odd. I'm not implying that people don't find God at later phases of their life, because they certainly do, but in this instance it was...forced? I think I'm going to go with word forced.
When I reread the section I came to the conclusion that it wasn't actually the institution that gave Icy the relief; she could care less if she attended a Catholic church, Baptist, Methodist, etc. It was that feeling of community and acceptance. That feeling of belonging. Icy was able to jump headfirst into something with no fear or threat of rejection. In this way, singing with several church choirs, she could finally be part of the community that had estranged her since childhood. At least that's what I told myself to help from being completely disappointed with the ending.