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Icy Sparks    by Gwyn Hyman Rubio order for
Icy Sparks
by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2001 (1998)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Icy Sparks is a ten-year-old orphan who lives with her grandparents in 1950s rural Kentucky, in the Appalachian Mountains. As if life isn't already difficult enough, her circumstances become even more tenuous when she is struck with an affliction that causes violent tics and uncontrollable cursing.

Realizing she has a disorder, she tries to discipline herself to control her weird behavior but there are times when she lets go and curses even those who mean the most to her. She suffers ostracism from her peers and knows there is malicious gossip behind her back. Her true adult friend is Emily, who weighs at least three hundred pounds and who tells Icy that she too has a disorder. While Icy sees no future for herself, Emily insists that there is life out there after Kentucky, and tries to prepare Icy for college.

This is an unusual and moving book. It is written with great sensitivity for sufferers of Tourette's Syndrome (Icy's disorder), and with a full knowledge of mountain town living and of the people who inhabit those towns. Surprisingly, Icy Sparks is Gwyn Hyman Rubio's first novel. Writing with a grace rarely seen in a first book, she neither criticizes nor idealizes her characters. She simply presents them as she sees them. Though this is an older book, it is one that will linger in your memory.

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