Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What we're reading...dealing with strong emotions

The Sharp Time
by Mary O'Connell
Realistic fiction for high school students
228 pages

Reviewed by Anarda, teen librarian

Sandinista Jones is grieving, and she's angry. Still suffering from losing her single mother in an accident a few months earlier, Sandinista walked out of her Algebra 2 class last Friday, infuriated and humiliated by the bullying tactics of her math teacher, Catherine Bennett. 
Monday morning finds the 18-year-old in front of her favorite vintage shop, Pale Circus, ready to beg for a job and vowing never to return to high school.

Surprisingly, the owner does hire her, and for the next week Sandinista has a foot in two worlds. She's finding unexpected understanding in her new relationships with the denizens of the various shops on this slightly rough block (including the owner of an erotic bakery and a gunship owner), down the street from a contemplative monastery from which sandal-clad monks emerge to slip and slide on the icy sidewalks. She finds an especially kindred spirit in her co-worker, college student Bradley, who not only shares sharp (and funny!) observations with her, but listens with a generous (if slightly stoned) heart. 

But there is silence from her high school administration over the cruelty of her teacher; silence, too from her one-time friends who she has alienated in her rage; and Sandinista is indulging in increasingly elaborate revenge fantasies of destroying Mrs. Bennett. She carries the pink and cream pistol the neighborhood gun shop owner handed to her on her first day of work, and starts to drive by her algebra teacher's home. For the rest of the week, we see her grow more and more convinced that something must be done to stop Catherine Bennett from torturing another teen, a "slow" girl, weak in ways Ms. Bennett knows how to abuse.

Funny, irreverent, and with an edge of nail-biting anxiety for this witty, troubled young woman on the verge of a mistake that will truly destroy her life, this is a book I can recommend to those seeking a fresh look into grief and helplessness.