Friday, January 6, 2012

The Sharp Time by Mary O'Connell

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Sandinista Jones is a high school senior with a punk rock name and a broken heart. The death of her mother has left Sandinista alone in the world, isolated and vulnerable. When the school system lets her down, her grief and instability intensify, and she ponders a violent act of revenge against her teacher.

Still, in the midst of her crisis, she gets a job at the Pale Circus, a funky vintage clothing shop, and finds a kindred spirit in her coworker, Bradley, a boy struggling with his own secrets.

Even as Sandinista is losing heart, confronted repeatedly by the failures of those in authority, she is offered a chance to believe in the redemptive power of friendship.  Now she must choose faith – and forgiveness – or despair and vengeance.

Readers will cheer Sandinista on as she navigates an often brutal but unexpectedly beautiful world.

I’m not quite sure what exactly drew my attention to The Sharpe Time but I thought the premise was intriguing enough to delve into it.

Sandinista was raised by her very progressive single mother who taught her to be self-reliant and open to new ideas. They had one of those envious mother-daughter relationships that provided her with plenty enough. Her life fell apart though when her mother was killed in a car accident.  Now living on her own, she has become introverted. A controversial incident at school has left her disgruntled and jaded. As a result, she decides to quit school and go to work at the Pale Circus where she quickly becomes friends with Bradley who has odd habits but is very personable.

Sandinista easily throws herself into her job, finding comfort and purpose in her new routine. However, she keeps reliving the events of her last day at school and becomes fixated on the teacher with whom she had a falling out. She starts scheming of ways to confront this teacher and have her voice be heard.

The entire story takes place in one week with the author moving backward slowly threading pieces together to reveal what happened at school that made her walk away. It becomes obvious that Sandinista is hovering in limbo and in a fragile state  sort of moving forward but not really going anywhere because she's held back by that incident at school. And while she has that on constant loop in her mind she grows closer to Bradley and learns more of his darker side.

The Sharpe Time is a good book but it’s an uneasy read. As Sandinista starts making some pretty bizarre decisions, you realize just how vulnerable she is and worry that she’s going to snap at any moment. And while she’s pretty self-reliant, she’s also desperately in need of someone – particularly any authority figure at school – to care about her. In fact, it’s become an obsession that someone at school validate her worth. It’s truly a miracle that as messed up as Bradley is that he’s the one to pull her out of the fog.

Mary O’Connell has done an impeccable job of relaying these two peoples’ pain. Being inside Sandinista’s head was unsettling at times. I even held my breath not knowing which direction she was headed in, dreading the worst and hoping for the best. But there’s also great empathy for her because she is so bogged down by her grief. Bradley’s pain has evolved into resentment yet he keeps returning to that which caused it in the first place. When she realizes that pain is not an exclusive club to her, she wakes up. When that happens, there's a small sigh of relief and the pause button that has held her life in place can finally be released.

~ Bel

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