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Sarah A., Sarah B., Sarah C., and Sarah T. have something in common besides their names: They are a tightly knit clique of high school girls who commit petty-and not so petty-crimes. The four girls are University bound, and their crimes start innocently enough, stealing a bottle of water here and a few bags of chips there. As the story begins, the heists move into a new stage. Sarah A., the "ballsy blonde leader" and a self-professed "thievery guru," wants to steal What Color is Your Parachute. Why would girls with means and bright futures want to steal what they can legitimately afford? As Sarah T. explains, "if an item is smaller than a toaster, Sarah A. prefers utilizing the five-finger discount. It's much more exciting than making a legitimate purchase." But Sarah A. likes to push the limits and constantly ups the ante of what it means to be a dedicated thief. So when she issues a challenge in which everyone must demonstrate their true dedication to the group, Sarah T. must think up a stellar plan to remain a "Sarah.” Tracy's story is truly unique and inspiringly entertaining. The dialogue is dryly witty, and Tracy's characters are smart, sassy, and a bit understated. The four girls struggle with real life issues-parents leaving, distant families, pants wetting in stressful situations, and how to stand up to a bossy, sometimes crazed yet totally alone ringleader. Although the ending is a bit clichéd, the Sarahs' final attempt at reconciliation appears natural and uncontrived. The crimes-and the stories between the crimes-tell a hilarious and endearing tale of just how far one will go for friends and what it means to be a "Sarah." Reviewer: Ria Newhouse
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
Just like mayonnaise, Raisinets, and milk, every criminal has a shelf life. Either you get caught or you evolve. Much like the amoeba, the other Sarahs and I plan on evolving. Of course, since we're in the middle of a job right now, we're obviously not there yet.
"Should I go?" Sarah B asks.
I view this as a rhetorical question. I'm not the leader. That's Sarah A's position, but she's already inside the store. Sometimes, because I'm the driver, when Sarah A is absent, the other two Sarahs defer to me. Though I don't know why. Among the four of us, I'm the least alpha. I'm not headstrong or decisive or anything. As far as the pecking order, I'm the shortest Sarah. Plus, I struggle with anxiety.
"Give her a few more minutes," Sarah C calls from the backseat.
Had I said something, that would've been my answer too. I always favor inaction over action. Sarah B leans back into the passenger seat and smacks her gum. Then she blows a bubble so big that its circumference eclipses her face. Pop. She peels off the pink film and pushes the gum wad back inside her mouth. Bubbles never stick to Sarah B's face, because every minute of her life, her T-zone is aglow with oil. It's what I call a Teflon complexion. Except I don't say that to her actual face. Pop.
A fact that sucks: Sarah B breaks out more than any other Sarah. Another fact that sucks: Her oily skin will age better than my dry skin. When she's eighty, her skin will be the least wrinkly ofall the Sarahs. That is, if we all live long enough to reach that geriatric benchmark.
"Now?" Sarah B asks.
I shake my head. It's not just that I favor inaction; in the beginning, we learned quickly that it was best to enter our targeted stores one at a time. It's blatantly unfair, but salesclerks absolutely stereotype teenagers. Even a group of presumably innocent, Caucasian-looking, female teens browsing the aisles of a bookstore on a Sunday afternoon can send up a red flag. Agism is alive and well, even here in Kalamazoo.
"Now?" Sarah B asks me again. "I feel like it's time."
I nod. I don't know if it's time, but there's so much tension and perfume overload in the car that I'm getting a headache and it would improve the atmosphere immensely if the apple-scented Sarah B left.
"Remember, take the clerk to the board-book display beneath the huge toad cutout. Ask a lot of questions about Sarah Stewart and David Small. Keep the clerk in one area," Sarah C says. She's leaning forward, wedging herself into the rectangle of open space between the driver's and passenger's seat. Her shiny red hair is so close to my mouth that I think I can taste her conditioner.
Sarah B opens the car and slings her purse strap over her neck. For as long as I can remember, Sarah B has feared being mugged. I guess being a thief lowers your threshold for trust.
"I thought it was a cutout of a lizard," Sarah B says.
"He's a toad," Sarah C says.
"How do you know it's a guy? Is it anatomically correct? Did you inspect its crotch?" She blows another bubble and sucks it back inside her mouth.
"First, he's wearing pants. Second, he's a character from The Wind in the Willows. It's a guy toad. Trust us."
Sarah C kicks the back of my seat.
"Yeah, The Wind in the Willows is about a male toad," I say.
Sarah B tilts her head and squints at us, like she's thinking really hard. Her soft lips turn downward, which usually means that she's confused.
"I bet some cultures consider lizards to be a form of toads," Sarah B says. "They both have reptile brains." Not everything Sarah B says makes perfect sense.
She slams the car door and enthusiastically walks through the strip mall parking lot, her brown hair bouncing around her tan, bare shoulders. Until last week, Sarah B always wore a Detroit Tigers baseball cap. But after she almost got caught shoving a box of Oreos down her pants at a Sunoco station, Sarah A was adamant that the cap had to go. She claimed that the bill shaded Sarah B's eyes, making her look boyish and deceptive.
Sarah A was the only Sarah who saw it this way. Sarah B has very big boobs. There's nothing boyish going on with that rack. But immediately following the Oreo incident, while we sat around Sarah A's bedroom indulging in our looted booty, Sarah A grabbed the cap right off of Sarah B's head and doused it with lighter fluid. I was really surprised that an incoming high school senior kept lighter fluid in her bedroom. Then, Sarah A ran to her bathroom and torched the hat in the tub. At that point, the cap became a moot point.
But we've all moved on from the flaming cap episode. That's clear as I watch Sarah B bounce right through the front doors of the Barnes & Noble. But what else would I expect? She's a resilient Sarah. We're all resilient Sarahs. So while it may be true that we've reached a criminal level of boredom with our city, to the point where we've considered committing much more serious crimes with actual weapons, we're still a very plucky bunch.
"I'll go in ten," Sarah C calls from the backseat.
She's the only Sarah among us who had to legally change her name. It wasn't the easiest thing to do. She and her parents had to petition the family division of the circuit court and pay almost two hundred dollars. Sarah A made Sarah C bring the paperwork to prove she'd done it. Because if you're going to become part of an elite club, there's got to be some standards. Sarah A was very clear about that. So, our freshman year, Lisa Sarah Cody became Sarah Lisa Cody. A bona fide Sarah. For the most part, she doesn't seem to regret it. But who wouldn't want to be one of us? The benefits are stellar. The Sarahs are popular, crafty, goal-oriented, and have loads of unsupervised time. My parents aren't expecting me home for hours. And when I do show up, it's not like they'll pepper me with probing questions about my afternoon. A few years ago, after I joined the school choir, they assumed I was on a good path in life. I look like a good girl, and around them, I act like a good girl. Which is cool. I may be passive, but I do care what people, especially blood relatives, think about me.
"Hey, don't you ever worry that we'll get caught?" Sarah C asks.
She finger flicks the back of my head. I rub the area and keep my hand there to shield myself from a second flick.
"Are you speaking hypothetically?" I ask.
"No, like right now. Don't you worry some hyperaware clerk will spot us?" Sarah C asks.
"That's not what I was thinking about at all," I say.
"Even if we do get caught, I guess it's not a huge deal because we're minors. We'd probably be sentenced to make restitution and pick up roadside trash. But after we turn eighteen, we might want to rethink this lifestyle."
"Lifestyle?" I try to glance at her in the rearview mirror, but her head is tucked down. "This is more than a lifestyle. It's who we are. We're the Sarahs."
"Yeah, I know, but once we're eighteen, once we're in college, we should probably rethink it. I mean, theft is kind of immature. We want. We take. Is it really worth it?"
"Of course it's worth it. Look around. We've got a close circle of friends and a ton of free crap."
Sarah C leans forward again. This time she angles her body so she can face me. I don't look at her.
"But doesn't all the free crap ever weigh on your conscience?" she asks.
Sarah C lowers her voice to a whisper.
"Sometimes, I picture myself handcuffed. Actually, I imagine all four of us in handcuffs, being trotted out to a squad car, the lights flashing, broadcasting our guilt to everybody driving by."
Sarah C mimics a siren by emitting a wha wha sound. Then she puts her hand over her mouth to dim the noise.
I'm so shaken up her pessimistic outpouring that my jaw drops open. A light breeze blows into the pocket of my mouth.
She stops the siren sound.
"It's not about the theft," I say. At least that's what Sarah A always says. "It's about the bond. The sisterhood."
"We could get tattoos."
This idea makes me frown. I'm not sure that I want a tattoo. And because Sarah C has the highest GPA out of all the Sarahs and also scored 2300 on the SAT, sometimes her suggestions carry weight.
"Why would we want to put identifying markers on our bodies?" I ask.
"Good point," Sarah C says. "In a lineup we'd be so screwed."
"A lineup?" I ask.
"Yeah, don't you watch cop shows?" Sarah C asks.
"You have time to watch cop shows?" I ask.
I'm surprised to hear this because being a Sarah takes up all my free time.
"This probably isn't the best time to ponder cop shows," Sarah C say. "The criminals usually get locked up."
"Yeah," I say. "Let's ponder something positive."
There's a long silence.
"Can't you think of anything positive?" I ask.
"Stealing stuff all the time is a lot like driving a race car," Sarah C says. "Drivers are warned not to look at the wall when they're losing control, because you tend to steer yourself toward what you're looking at. For criminals that's a very appropriate life metaphor: In order to avoid colliding with the cops, don't think about them."
"I never think about the police," I say. Neither the topic of law enforcement or car crashes strike me as positive pondering.
"Besides the Sarahs, what do you think about?" Sarah C asks. I don't like her tone; it's accusatory. Or her question; it's a little too insightful.
"I think about life," I say.
Sarah C leans into the backseat again, but this time threads her long legs through the center console. Her sandals reach the gearshift. I get the feeling that she doesn't believe me. She crosses her ankles and I watch her toes curl incredulously against the brown suede pad of her shoes. I feel goaded into elaboration.
"I think about life all the time," I say. "It's like a hallway."
"Yeah," I say.
"Like at school?" Sarah C asks.
"Okay, but there's no lockers," I say. "It's just a hallway and there's all these doors. But they're closed. So you've got to decide which ones to open and which ones to walk past. But you never know what you're missing or what you're getting until you've already gotten it," I say.
Sarah C doesn't say anything right away.
"That's a very interior metaphor. I spend a lot of time outdoors. That comparison doesn't really work for me," Sarah C says.
"My life is like a hallway," I say.
"That's tragic. I really dig trees," Sarah C says.
I turn and look at Sarah C in the backseat. She's twisting a small section of her red hair around her pointer finger.
"Didn't Sarah A tell you to keep your hair pulled back into a ponytail?" I ask.
"She did, but it makes my neck look so long."
"Aren't swan necks considered attractive?" I ask.
"Maybe. But I like my hair down."
"Sarah C, remember the Oreos," I say.
I turn back to face the front and look out the windshield. I'm thirsty. But I never consume any fluid for at least four hours before a hit. Too much anxiety triggers my pee reflex. I can hear the sound of an elastic band snapping itself into place. Sarah A thinks ponytails look wholesome. She thinks it's the right message to send.
"You've got two more minutes," I say.
"I know. I'm going to ask for help in the magazine section. I'm interested in buying a Spanish copy of People."
"But you're not going to buy it," I say.
"I know. I'm going to act extremely disappointed by the cover and pretend that I wanted the issue containing los cincuenta mas bellos."
"I thought Sarah A said to trill your R's," I say.
"There aren't any R's in the phrase los cincuenta mas bellos," she says.
She makes a valid point.
"Maybe you should follow up by saying muchas gracias and trill that R."
"I'm not trying to sound like I'm an actual Spaniard. I'm supposedly buying it for a summer school report. Overdone inflection might make a clerk suspicious."
"Don't get mad at me. These are Sarah A's instructions," I say.
She doesn't respond. We sit in uncomfortable silence. Sometimes I think Sarah C misses the bigger picture about being a Sarah. It's as if she mixes up the idea that we're good people who sometimes do bad things with the idea that we're deeply flawed people driven to commit deplorable acts on a daily basis. I might have to talk with Sarah A about this again. Last time I brought up Sarah C's negative attitude with Sarah A, I was left with the impression that Sarah A was growing concerned about our group of four.
I got this impression when she ended the conversation by saying, "Sarah T, I'm concerned about our group of four." I don't know exactly what she meant, but it wouldn't surprise me if Sarah A decided to purge one of the remaining three Sarahs from the group. That's the sort of power she totes around. She's a real decider. She even makes decisions for other people. She makes mine all the time. And you never want to cross her.
That's how we lost our fifth Sarah, Sarah Dancer, during the middle of our junior year. But it's not like she was wheelchair-bound forever. Just like three months. And they flew by. And she's totally fine now. Mostly.
Sarah A, our ballsy blonde leader, our thievery guru, our governing Sarah, aka Sarah Aberdeen, has been in the targeted bookstore for roughly ten minutes. It's the job of the remaining Sarahs to keep the clerks away from the Self Help section while Sarah A finds the title she's looking for, What Color Is Your Parachute?, and takes it from the store. A typical Sunday afternoon.
Sarah A has the money to pay for the book, even if forced to buy a hardback edition. But if an item she desires is smaller than a toaster, Sarah A prefers utilizing the five-finger discount. It's much more exciting than making a legitimate purchase.
After a few more quiet moments, Sarah C squeaks open her back door and says something haughty under her breath. I can't hear exactly what it is, but it's probably related to her ponytail. Sometimes, her attitude is the worst. Who brings up the possibility of getting caught in the middle of a job? Talk about a fatalist. And what's so hard about wearing a ponytail? Does she have an overly sensitive scalp?
I watch her long bare legs stride to the store. When Sarah A doesn't wear heels, Sarah C is the tallest Sarah. She also looks the best in shorts. Before us, she played on the volleyball team. She might've been the setter. I can't remember. Now she does Pilates and jogs. Being a Sarah is the only team sport of which she's currently a member. It takes up more time than you'd think.
Being a Sarah is pretty much a sixty-hour work week. We're not running around Kalamazoo willy-nilly, ripping off fashion magazines from Walgreens. Of course, we do rip off fashion magazines from Walgreens. Usually the one at the corner of Kilgore and Westnedge. But we're not spontaneous criminals.
"Impulsive thieves are incarcerated thieves," Sarah A likes to say.
We plan our crimes carefully. And we sit around and rehash them a lot too. And we do noncriminal stuff in order to bond. Since it's summer, we drive out to Lake Michigan at least once a week. And we visit Saugatuck. It's an artist community near the lake that's crammed with boutiques. We've stolen a variety of cookie cutters, jars of cheese spread, and Michigan-shaped oven mitts from an understaffed kitchen store there.
And we like to hike around the Kalamazoo Nature Center and watch the injured owls stare powerfully at us from behind their wire mesh cages. And we volunteer at the animal shelter where we mainly focus on the dogs. And we work on our college applications, mostly by discussing the great things we'll say about ourselves in our personal statements. And we bake cookies (using the aforementioned cutters) that we don't eat, because none of us want to be chunky seniors sucking our guts in while back fat ripples beneath our ridiculously priced and somewhat slutty prom dresses. And sometimes we read. We're huge Sue Grafton fans.
Sarah A thinks that the reason criminals get caught has nothing to do with shelf life and everything to do with having a lack of other interests. She insists that criminals need to be well-rounded. It's the only way to stay ahead of the law. She's firm about this. So we've all developed other interests. Except, they're identical and we do them together. Sarah A doesn't think that's a problem.
"So what if we live identical lives?" Sarah A says. "As long as they're balanced."
She makes being criminals sound like a circus act, like we're all traipsing across the high wire, one after the other. Heights make me anxious. I try not to think of our lives this way. That's why I developed my hallway metaphor. Sarah C calls being a thief-at-large a numbers game. She likens our fates to a bad lottery or draft. She's always worried that our number may be coming up. I'm not really sure what Sarah B thinks.
But I doubt the Kalamazoo Police Department wants to lock up college-bound teens who volunteer at their local animal shelter and are willing to clean out the dirtiest dog cages. And I bet none of our Michigan judges want to throw the book at four honor students who also happen to be outstanding altos. We're the backbone of Kalamazoo Central High School's award-winning choir. Why should the law be interested in us? We barely commit any serious crimes at all. At least for the moment.
It's almost time for me to go. I watch the store's glass windows and stare at the people milling around behind them. There are many interesting ways to style a head of hair. Wait, I think I see a familiar head. I do. It's Sarah C. She's pressed up right against the glass. What is she doing? She's jerking her arm up and down. If I can see her, so can other people. She's going to draw a ton of attention.
I open my door. She's still jerking. Is she having a seizure? Did she suddenly develop epilepsy? Are epileptics not supposed to wear ponytails? She's in the café. Why is she in the café? Oh my God. I get it. She's flashing me the peace sign. She does it again. And a third time. That's the distress signal.
Three peace signs in quick succession means that something's gone horribly wrong. But what could have gone horribly wrong? Nobody's stolen anything yet. It's not against the law to consider stealing a book. It's not even against the law to consider killing the president. Of course, you can never voice that consideration, because that is against the law.
I climb out of the car. All this stress makes me feel dizzy. But I don't have time to catch my emotional balance. I better get in there. My Sarah sisters need me.
Excerpted from Crimes of the Sarahs by Kristen Tracy Copyright © 2008 by Kristen Tracy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 2, 2012
Posted December 8, 2008
The book Crimes of the Sarahs is based on a clique of four girls with the same name Sarah, Sarah Aberdeen, Sarah Trestle, Sarah Babbitt, and Sarah Cody who also all were criminals. It wasn¿t to the extent of a mafia or anything the girls just always stole things from the store and the mall, whether it was a snack or a stick of lipstick. They all were best friends and all very close. Outside of stealing, the girls were very popular at school and also very good students. Sarah Aberdeen is the leader of the clique, the one who chooses who stays and who gets kicked out of the group. The Sarahs never thought that they would stop being best friends or split up until Sarah Trestle, the girl who thinks she¿s to good and will never get caught or get kicked out or the group gets caught stealing a donation jar at Barnes & Noble. Ever since that happened the girls friendship started to go down hill. Overall I thought that Crimes of the Sarahs was a really funny book, and also a good book on friendship. This is the kind of book that you will never want to put down. I caught myself will the book in my hand every time that I didn¿t have anything else to do I would be reading it.
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Posted April 1, 2015
Posted July 2, 2011
This is a very suspenseful novel about a club of girls: Sarah Aberdeen, Babbitt, Cody and Trestle each Sarah have a different personality but the book focuses mostly on the lives of Sarah's A and T. The story is told threw the eyes of Sarah Trestle. She is the odd ball of the sarahs( a group of shoplifting theives), she by far has the most conflict in the book because out of everyone she has the most problem which the crimes. Trestle struggles to be a Sarah were out up to par with what I thought it was going to be. Sarah A is really rude and beyotching thoughout the story it is a real shame her character went from being a bad influental leader to a jerk who could get herself in check and change her bad ways. My only question is what happens Sarah's Babitt and Cody they and frequentl mentioned in conversations but not seen as they should considering they were meant to be main characters in the novel. I give this book and A for effort B- for orginality but a C- for plot . With this book your waiting for it waiting for it and when it takes their you start to filling that it stopped you shirt, but maybe it would be better if the book had a part 2 not fill in much need holes.
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Posted September 6, 2008
Meet Sarahs Aberdeen, Babbitt, Cody, and Trestle. They are the only members of the hottest clique in Kalamazoo: the Sarahs. Well, there used to be another, but she was kicked out because she just wasn't good enough. The Sarahs are all best friends they do everything with each other, from volunteering to gossip. All they need is each other at least, that's the way it should be. But the Sarahs have a unique hobby: petty thievery. With one shoplifting attempt gone wrong, the relationship among the Sarahs starts to deteriorate and spin out of control. Each of the Sarahs, especially Sarah T, is willing to do anything to stay a part of this club, but how far will they go? Crimes of the Sarahs was not what I expected it to be, and that's not necessarily a good thing. I expected this novel to be solely about the crimes of these four friends, but it turned out to be mostly about the individual journey of Sarah T as she comes to terms with how she and her friends have changed. It seemed to me that halfway through the book, the story changed entirely except for the setting. I didn't really like this, and when I finished reading, I felt confused as to what the point of the story was. For soon-to-be-seniors in high school, the Sarahs acted quite immature at some times, and I felt that some of the family problems each Sarah had were just included at the last minute. Overall, I was disappointed with the story. If you are looking for a fun book to read to entertainment, I would not recommend Crimes of the Sarahs. It did not live up to my expectations and was not as enjoyable and effective as it could've been in conveying its message.
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Posted August 8, 2010
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Posted January 28, 2010
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