I have a secret. And everyone knows it. But no one talks about it, at least not out in the open. That makes it a very modern secret, like knowing your favorite celebrity has some weird eccentricity or other, or professional athletes do it for the money, or politicians don’t actually have your best interests at heart.

Sprout is the story of Daniel Bradford, a kid who decides that if he can’t fit in, it will at least be on his own terms. He’s a gifted writer, something that his English teacher figures out pretty quickly and moves to hone in time for the state essay-writing contest. The teen years are difficult at best, but Daniel (nicknamed Sprout for his green hair) doesn’t have much help. His mother died from cancer a few years ago, leaving his father a depressed, drunken shell. To escape the pain of the memories of their life in New Jersey, his dad decides to move them out west (Sprout has about an hour of warning about this impending move), where they haphazardly land in Kansas. His father takes the money from the sale of their home in New Jersey and puts it into a plot of land, a trailer, and enough alcohol to keep him drunk most of the time.

So here he is, living in Kansas, trying to figure out who he is, and if he might fit in at all. He’s 16, gay (though closeted, because he doesn’t really want the kind of hell that being out in rural Kansas might bring upon a green haired teen with an alcoholic father who lives in a trailer overgrown by ivy), and talented. He sometimes has sex with the captain of the football team in the janitor’s closet at school, and he mostly writes about his best friend, Ruth, because she mostly thinks about herself and likes to share her stories, and he isn’t ready to talk about what’s going on in his life, in his mind, or in his heart.

Until now.

Post updated to answer the question, did I like this book. Yes, I liked it quite a bit. The prose was entertaining, thoughtful, and intelligent. Sprout’s situation, his family and friends, were sometimes not totally well fleshed out. But his own view of the world, his feelings and thoughts, are moving, and I found myself charmed by the character.

7 thoughts on “Sprout

  1. I didn’t even know Dale had a new book out. I’ve read his other novels, mostly because I went to college with him and always thought he was a nice fellow, though they weren’t really my cup of tea. This sounds interesting, though!

  2. Hey, he was the first person I actually KNEW who wrote and published a book. And now I get to say, “I was in the same writing class, and we studied together for a history final once.”

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