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Seventeen Against the Dealer

Seventeen Against the Dealer

4.0 8
by Cynthia Voigt

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Dicey Tillerman has big dreams. She's started a boatbuilding business, and she's determined to prove she can succeed on her own. That's why at first she resists the offer of help from Cisco, the mysterious stranger who turns up one day at her shop.

But running a business doesn't leave much time for the



Dicey Tillerman has big dreams. She's started a boatbuilding business, and she's determined to prove she can succeed on her own. That's why at first she resists the offer of help from Cisco, the mysterious stranger who turns up one day at her shop.

But running a business doesn't leave much time for the people Dicey treasure -- her grandmother, her younger siblings, and her boyfriend, Jeff. And then the trust Dicey puts in Cisco turns out to be misplaces. Suddenly it seems as if Dicey could lose everything -- has she discovers too late what really matters to her?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dicey Tillerman, out of school and assuredly launching her own boat-building business, seems ready to face anything that comes her way. But the obstacles she faces so thoroughly immerse her in the work that she loses sight of other facets of her life and neglects her grandmother (who is ill), her boyfriend Jeff and the other Tillermans--Maybeth, James and Sammy--who are struggling with their own lives. Further, Dicey overlooks key details of running a business (having an insurance policy, understanding obligations to her potential clients) that seem minor at first, but effectively force her to close shop. She stacks the odds against herself, and must admit that she doesn't always have the answers. The last book in the Tillerman family cycle will work its way into readers' sensibilities like the roots of a long-nurtured plant that suddenly blooms; this novel is the sum of all those that have preceded it--just as quietly powerful, just as beautifully paced. That Dicey so believably paints herself into a corner and comes to terms with her own limitations in such a breathtakingly short period of time--over such ordinary events--makes this one of the season's truly accomplished novels. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 8-12 This final volume about the Tillerman family is a finely-crafted novel about goals and values and about nurturing relationships rather than taking them for granted. Dicey is now 21, and she once again exhibits the single-minded determination that served her so well in Homecoming (1981) and Dicey's Song (1982, both Atheneum). Here, however, it also works to her disadvantage, for at this point in her life, she is also filled with youthful arrogance, foolish independence, and naivety. She has saved enough money to start a boatyard business, and she is fiercely determined to make a go of it. She makes serious business errors and lets herself be duped by a con artist. Throughout, her blinders keep her working to the point of exhaustion and obsession, all the while missing what is happening in her family and to her relationship with her boyfriend, Jeff. Between New Year's Day and Valentine's Day, Dicey follows her spiritual quest, finally realizing that while achieving one's goals is important, so too are family, knowledge, and personal growth. As Dicey becomes more involved in her work, family members fade from the pages, and readers are as isolated from them as Diceyuntil an emergency brings her back to reality. Descriptions are vivid; writing is in turn leisurely and clipped; characters spring to life, all revealing their own strengths and weaknesses. Stunning performavealing their own strengths and weaknesses. Stunning performances from all of the Tillermans. Trev Jones, ``School Library Journal''

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Tillerman Cycle Series , #7
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 8.42(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Seventeen Against the Dealer



She heard him, but didn’t hear him. His voice entered her consciousness the way the first sounds of morning enter a dream and become part of it, before you wake up into the real day. The smell of paint lingered, although she had cocked open the high windows and raised the wide metal door. The paint had a penetrating odor that hung on in the air. The curved sides of the dinghy shone with fresh color. She’d scraped and sanded the bottom before painting the sides. When this paint dried she’d put the boat up on the storage rack for the rest of the winter; and the job would be done because the bottom paint wouldn’t go on until spring. Bottom paint was still wet when the boat went into the water. Green stains had splotched her jeans, her sneakers, her arms, hands, and face. Probably her hair, too, if she had a mirror to see it. She looked at her hands, the nails ringed with green, even after the scrubbing she’d given them in the shop’s dank little bathroom. The hands she watched went right on with their work—as if she didn’t exist—stroking the whetstone against the blade of the adze.

She was reviewing her plans. Dicey Tillerman always had things planned out so she could get to where she wanted. Where she wanted to get to was being a boatbuilder. Sailboats, she wanted to build sailboats. Not fancy yachts, but a boat a person could sail alone, or two people could sail.

Dicey knew you didn’t get what you wanted just by wanting it. She’d worked the last two summers, over in Annapolis, to learn things she needed to know. She’d learned some carpentry, she’d cut and sewn sails, and this fall she’d hired herself out to a boatyard in Crisfield, never mind the rotten pay, to learn what you were contracting for when you offered winter storage and maintenance for boats.

The boats she wanted to build were wooden ones. She wanted to build a boat with a carved rudder to guide it by and the long, varnished tiller under your hand. Not plywood, either. Dicey Tillerman had an idea about a slender, soft-bellied boat built out of planks of wood fitted together so close it was as if they’d grown that way, sturdy enough for heavy winds but light enough so the slightest breeze would fill the sails and move it across the water.


For now, however, the shop came first, and the shop work—repair, maintenance, storage. She knew that nobody hired you to build a sailboat right away, first thing. She also had an idea for a dinghy, one that could be powered either by a motor or by oars. Her plan was to get herself a name for building dinghies, save up the profits, and then—when she was ready—start taking orders for sailboats.

So the next thing she needed, now that she had the shop and tools, and a bank account, was work. She didn’t expect it to be easy. She knew that nobody had done what she planned to do, start her own boatyard, from nothing. At least, nobody she knew in Crisfield, or Annapolis, or the points between had done it. Boatyards were inherited, father to son, or bought out. Nobody just started one. But nobody had done a lot of what she’d done in her life, like getting her family down to Crisfield when they were all just kids, or even dropping out of college when she’d been offered a scholarship to continue. Just because nobody had done something didn’t mean that Dicey couldn’t.

Standing with her feet planted apart in front of the workbench, the light falling over her shoulder, wearing a sweatshirt no amount of laundering ever got clean, Dicey fingered the honed blade of the adze and then, satisfied, hung it in its place overhead, between the long saw and the squat broadax. All the blades above her gleamed like polished silver. She wrapped the oilstone in its cloth and set it aside in its metal box; the box she put on the storage shelf under the table’s surface, beside the row of wooden-handled screwdrivers and hammers, and the pile of plastic containers that kept nails and screws sorted out by sizes, each container labeled with adhesive tape on which she’d made dark pencil marks—and gradually she heard him, standing still by the doorway just behind her. The sense of his being there rose up in her, as quiet and sure as a tide rising up along the shore. It was as if his silence awoke her.

The pane of glass shone dark behind his head, the darkness of early winter nights. His gray eyes watched her, had been watching her; she was glad to see him. “You’re early,” she said.

“Actually,” Jeff told her, “I’m late. I thought you’d prefer that.”

“Actually,” she mimicked him, “you’re right.” She stretched her arms up high over her head, stretched the muscles along her back, then walked down the shop to turn off lights. It was like a cave, the shop. Square, about twenty feet by twenty feet, the cinder block walls rose up from a slab cement floor. The high windows snapped up shut, closing out the darkness; she’d pulled down the broad metal doorway that opened onto the water when the afternoon temperature started to fall; so the shop felt like a cave, too, it felt like a treasure cave. Some treasure, Dicey thought, and grinned. One dinghy, belly up on a rack at the center of the shop. Two more dinghies stacked on racks against the wall, waiting for the same caretaking. On the other hand, their monthly storage fees would pay what she wanted to give her grandmother every month, and because she was underpricing local boatyards, she could hope for more boats to winter next year—yeah, they were treasures.

Her tools were treasures, too, and they might in fact be worth something, at least to a collector. She’d picked them up over the last couple of years, in junk shops mostly, and at yard sales—hammers, screwdrivers, planes, and the cutting tools. She’d soaked and sanded those tools, honed and polished them, and even carved out a replacement handle for the broadax. She couldn’t have afforded new tools, and, anyway, the new weren’t made with the same care as the old. The old were made to last lifetimes.

And Jeff Greene, in a thick, dark sweater that rose up around his neck, standing waiting in front of the shop door, his thumbs hooked in his pockets, just watching her, probably knowing exactly what she was thinking . . . the thought made her smile.

“You look,” he told her, “like the cat that swallowed the canary.”

She reached up over the worktable to turn out the final light. “I feel like the cat that figured out how to get into a cream factory. That’s how I feel. Cream is better than canaries. Canaries have feathers, and bones, and beaks, and claws, too. I’d think a cat that swallowed a canary would look pretty sick, Jeff.”

He laughed, and turned to open the door. With all the shop lights out, the door’s glass pane showed a whiter, mist-filled darkness outside. “You haven’t hung your sign out yet,” Jeff said, looking down at the carved wooden sign that leaned against the wall beside the door. “I thought you’d have it hung by noon on Christmas.”

“If it’s outside, I can’t look at it.” Her brother had made it for her, cutting the letters deep into a piece of mahogany, staining them dark so they would show up against the paler wood, and then varnishing it, coat after careful coat, so it would stand up against weather. TILLERMAN BOATS, the sign read. Dicey saw it clear in her memory, even though in the lightlessness she couldn’t distinguish the letters. “It’s a good thing Sammy took wood shop, or I don’t know what I’d have gotten for Christmas.”

“He’s got clever hands,” Jeff said.

“And he likes making things,” she added. Sammy had even roped James into making a half-court, a backboard to play tennis alone on, one summer; at the garage where he’d been hired to pump gas, he now spent most of his time working on engines. It was Sammy who kept their old pickup going for them. It was even Sammy who’d found it, and talked them into it, telling them it could be got running, he could do it easily, and at the price, which was only $485, he said—ignoring Gram’s raised eyebrows at the sum—they’d never find anything cheaper. “Who needs a wheeled vehicle?” Gram had demanded. “We do,” Sammy had told her. “You do, and you need a license, too. Maybe we can’t afford it, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it. And we can afford it.” Sammy had set his mind to it. Like anything else Sammy set his mind to, it got done. They insured it in Gram’s name, because she was the cheapest; Sammy was the only one of them who didn’t have a license at that point, and he’d turn sixteen in less than a year.

Jeff hurried Dicey along. “It’s after six. They’re waiting for us. Should I call and say we’re leaving now?” Dicey shook her head and followed him outside. He waited while she locked the door and took a final look. The shop lay quiet, the boats thick black masses in the darkness inside.

She let Jeff pull her by the hand toward his car, telling her with mock comfort, “You’ll be back tomorrow. It’s only a few hours’ separation.”

“No, it isn’t. Tomorrow’s New Year’s Day.”

“Then the day after. It’s only a few more hours. I don’t know why you’re in such a hurry.”

“Why shouldn’t I be? I know what I want to do, I’ve got enough money in the bank to pay six months’ rent and utilities, I’ve got storage and maintenance fees coming in—and I’ve got probably the best set of tools in the county. Some of them,” she added, “given to me by the man I love.” She put her arm around his waist and felt his arm go around her shoulder. “What more do I need?”

“You could marry me,” he suggested.

“I could but I can’t.”

“You mean you won’t.”

“I mean no, Jeff.”

“No you don’t,” he corrected her, lifting her bike into the back of the station wagon. “You mean not now, not yet.”

“I don’t think I’d ever marry anyone else,” she told him, fastening the seat belt. She had it planned—first the boats and then marrying Jeff.

“In that case,” he said, half of his attention on backing the car around the parking lot, “why don’t you marry me now and get it over with?”

Dicey turned her head sharply to look at him. “That wouldn’t get anything over with, it would just start things up. Cripes, Jeff,” she protested, and then laughed. “You make it sound so tempting.” She could no more imagine him not in her life than she could imagine not having her brothers and sister there, or Gram. Jeff Greene, since the time she’d first met him—over eight years ago now—had got woven into her life so thoroughly that, she thought, picturing it—the warp threads and the woof threads, all the colors and the intricate design—if he weren’t in it . . . everything would look entirely different, and feel different, too. Even the texture wouldn’t be what it was without Jeff.

“Besides,” Jeff said, “I’m still in school.”

Dicey grunted her agreement.

“Although I’m graduating this year, so I’m almost through. But I’ll probably go to grad school.”

“I’d think so.”

“So I don’t have a job to support you with. Although we could easily live on my allowance. Think of the savings in phone bills.”

“My phone bills aren’t bad.” They drove through town and turned onto a country road.

“I know. I know they aren’t.”

“I’ve been busy, you know that, Jeff. I’ve been working.”

“If you married me, you wouldn’t have to worry about being too busy to call me up,” Jeff pointed out. “Or write me letters.”

“Can we talk about something else? I don’t like feeling guilty.”

For a second, Dicey was afraid he would apologize. Instead, he told her, “You don’t feel guilty.”

He was right, she thought, grinning away, feeling good.

“And why should you feel guilty, anyway,” Jeff asked, “for doing what you always said you wanted to do?” But he said this as if he was reminding himself, not telling her.

Then she did feel guilty. “You know I’ll come home with you. Live with you while you’re home. Whenever you say, I will—you know that,” she reminded him. “Your father’s away, we wouldn’t be imposing on anyone.” Whenever they had this conversation, she always hoped that this time Jeff would say yes.

“You know that won’t work,” he said, as usual. “I’m not good at half-measures, Dicey. Besides, it’s too risky.”

“I know how not to get pregnant.”

“It’s not about not getting pregnant.”

She heard it in his voice, something angry, or sad, and turned in her seat to face him, to see his face. “What, sex?”

“I don’t think of it as sex,” he said. “I think of it as making love. And I think love deserves the best from me that I can give it. Which is a lot more than shacking up with you for Christmas vacation.”

Dicey reached her hand across to touch the back of his neck. “I’m sorry—I said it badly—Jeff? I’m tired, I’m stupid with tiredness.”

“It’s okay,” he said, and meant it. “You’ve been working too hard for too long.”

“That part’s coming to an end now, I think.”

Dicey leaned back in her seat, while the dark night hurried past the windows and the dark road ran under the wheels. Work had laid the groundwork, and now the shop was started. She had always gotten things done; working hard, and harder, was what worked for her. She was bankrolling her own business because for the last six months she’d held down two jobs. Eight to four at Claude’s boatyard, learning what had to be done and how to do it, meeting people who might hire her on her own, and then the night shift at the McDonald’s up in Salisbury. Days spent sweating herself dry and nights togged out in a little orange-and-yellow outfit, inhaling the smell of grease and industrial-strength cleanser, taking orders and money from person after person, from an endless procession of people impatient to fill their bellies. Sometimes she thought if she never saw another hamburger in her whole life, it would be too soon. Sometimes, even, she thought if she never saw another human being, too.

Dicey was glad those six months were behind her, but she was even gladder for her bank account. She was on her way to where she planned to get to because of those months, which was what really mattered.

At the mailbox they turned right into the driveway, moving slowly. The two fields, one on either side, lay dark and empty. The belt of pines that fenced the fields made a tall, dark wall. Then the driveway curved into the pines and Dicey could see the lighted windows of the house. Jeff drove around to the back and parked beside the pickup, in front of the barn. The car headlights shone briefly on the tarpaulin Sammy spread out to protect his tennis court, the beams of light reflecting off small black puddles formed by the mist, which gathered together if there was no soil to absorb it. Jeff turned off the engine and the lights, unbuckled himself, and then—as Dicey had hoped he would—he gathered her into his arms. The silky feel of his hair, and his strong young shoulders—the clean smell of him and the distant beating of his heart from deep inside his body—If she thought about it, Dicey didn’t see how she was going to stand having Jeff go away again, back to school. She didn’t think about it.

Meet the Author

Cynthia Voigt won the Newbery Medal for Dicey’s Song, the Newbery Honor Award for A Solitary Blue, and the National Book Award Honor for Homecoming, all part of the beloved Tillerman cycle. She is also the author of many other celebrated books for middle-grade and teen readers, including Izzy, Willy-Nilly and Jackaroo. She was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1995 for her work in literature, and the Katahdin Award in 2004. She lives in Maine.

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Seventeen Against the Dealer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Angieville More than 1 year ago
I'm pretty sure my mom handed me a copy of Dicey's Song (The Tillerman Series #2) during one of our summer reading list deals. Surely you're familiar with the concept. I read so many of the books on the list and she, in turn, gave me some sort of reward. You see this was back in the pre-Chronicles of Narnia phase in my life. The early days when I would rather be rolling down hills or jumping on beds than reading during the summer. Frankly, it's hard for me to look back now and remember such a time even existed. Looking back I'm actually glad I didn't pick it up that summer. Instead I held out long enough to have fallen in love with reading a year or two later as well as discover that it was actually the second book in a series of seven. The Tillerman Cycle follows the four Tillerman kids on their journey in search of home. The entire series is spectacular and covers quite a span of years, at times following close family friends and, in one instance, a relative before returning to the original four in the concluding volume--SEVENTEEN AGAINST THE DEALER. It grips my heart every time I re-read it and is an all too rare example of an author managing to end a long-ish series flawlessly. Dicey is now 21 years old. Having raised her three siblings in almost every sense of the word, she is now ready for that independence she's been longing for for so long. James is dealing with colleges and scholarships. Maybeth is taking care of Gram and keeping the house together. Sammy is playing enough tennis for four teenage boys. And Jeff is away at school. The perfect time for Dicey to stretch her wings and open that boat business she's always wanted to. After sinking every penny she ever earned into setting up shop and accumulating the necessary tools, Dicey spends all day every day working to pay her rent, with precious few moments leftover to craft that perfect boat she has in her head. In fact, Dicey spends the majority of her time in her own head now. She's always been introverted but she takes it to a new level here, unable to really bring anything else into focus. In the meantime, several important things go by the wayside. Her siblings need her but fear to intrude. Jeff tries to maintain their relationship, give her space at the same time, and not lose himself in the force of Dicey's indomitable will. After her shop is broken into, Dicey reluctantly admits she needs help and takes in a drifter by the name of Cisco Kidd who may be just what he says he is. Or he may turn out to be much, much more than that. Voigt's writing wraps itself around me just the way music wraps around Dicey. I never want to leave. By book seven, I love this family and these characters so much they feel as though they're mine. There's just something about the Tillermans that's impossible not to admire. And Dicey herself has long been one of my most beloved characters in all of literature. When I was 12 I wanted to be her so much it hurt. I still want to be her. She is the definition of tenacity. To a fault sometimes. That's why it's so beautiful to find this last story was hers alone. She's so far from perfect. She still has things to learn about life and loved ones and not taking any of it for granted. This story is so real in its depiction of the painful entrance to adulthood, the monotonous grind of daily labor, and the process of learning how to love someone the way they need to (and ought to) be loved. It takes my breath away every time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing but in the end she kind of left us in alot of suspence!! I want to know what is happening with Jeff and Dicey!! About their wedding and everything!!I hope she makes another book telling everyone these answers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought the book was really good but i wanted to no what would happen next with dicey and jeff and the whole family the ending just sorta ended at no where the book was awesome tho!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The intensity of the writing in the first two books of this triology (The Homecoming and Dicey's Song) left me eager for more. This final installment left me disappointed. Dicey is a strong-willed, forward thinking individual in both of the first two books, but here, she suddenly loses focus, fails to think things through and becomes emotionally dependent on her boyfriend and physically dependent on a drifter to help her with her business. Suddenly, Dicey doesn't have the stength of character that carried her (and her family) through the trials of the first two books. Too bad. Dicey is a role model for any girl struggling in a tough situation and Voigt has her falling apart as she reaches adulthood. Not a happy message.
Guest More than 1 year ago
17 year old Dicey Tillerman is obligated to help her grandmother raised her two younger siblings, Sammie and Maybeth, and worrying about her brother, James, who is away at college.1 While running her boat business, Dicey learns that dropping out of school because of her mother¿s death wasn¿t a good idea. After Dicey¿s mother died, Dicey took her three younger siblings and moved to live with her aunt. After that didn¿t work out, she had no other option except live with her grandmother. Dicey has to deal with Maybeth¿s mild retardation, Sammy¿s constant fighting, and James¿ absence from the home. Cynthia displays Dicey¿s frustration with life and her family in a way that makes the reader feel what Dicey feels. The author did slow down the plot a little too much during the beginning of the book, although it improved the book in many ways. My rating of Cynthia Voigt¿s Seventeen Against the dealer would be a C- because I have taken off points for the basic fact that the book was much more boring than the previous book in this trilogy, Dicey¿s Song. I would unmistakably recommend this book to other eighth graders, especially ones who are more recurrent readers than I am. Finished Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm Cynthia Voight. I admit, this book is sensational, but it's not my best. Please continue reading my books. My daughter, sarah, will soon be taking on my roll as an author. The year is 1984. I am very ill and I hope you will believe me when I say becoming an author is the best thing in life. This is sarah, my mother passed on a little while ago. i would have posted this sooner, but I couldn't find it in my heart to except the fact that she is dying.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cynthia Voigt's writing style is beautiful--each and every sentence can be taken out of context and still be fluid. I love the way the whole book is written. It is surprisingly blunt and earnest, yet tied in with the simplicity there are philosophical concepts. These are the bonds that hold her book together. They stay in my mind for the rest of my life. The simple relationships between Dicey and Cisco, Dicey and her family, Dicey and Jeff seem so realistic. The way Dicey thinks is crystal clear. It's like you ARE Dicey and you are in her situation. A very enjoyable book-- I couldn't put it down because it was so involving.