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The Sharp Time

The Sharp Time

3.6 3
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 single mother has left Sandinista alone in the world, subject to the random vulnerability of everyday life. When the school system lets her down, her grief and instability intensify, and she ponders a violent act of revenge.

Still, in the midst of her crisis, she


Sandinista Jones is a high school senior with a punk rock name and a broken heart. The death of her single mother has left Sandinista alone in the world, subject to the random vulnerability of everyday life. When the school system lets her down, her grief and instability intensify, and she ponders a violent act of revenge.

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

Even as Sandinista sees the failures of those with power and authority, she's offered the chance to survive through the redemptive power of friendship. Now she must choose between faith and forgiveness or violence and vengeance.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In an evocative first novel, O’Connell introduces an injured teen, whose sharp-edged grief and loneliness are deeply felt. After her single mother’s death, 18-year-old Sandinista Jones cuts off communication with friends and concerned adults, so she has no one to turn to when she’s targeted by an abusive teacher. On impulse, she stops going to school and takes a job at Pale Circus, a vintage clothing store that becomes a welcome escape (“Opening the door of the Pale Circus is like falling into a morning dream of Oz-bright Technicolor: you walk up any old flight of stairs, open a random closet door and find a dance hall in full swing”). Yet Sandinista’s violent urges to seek revenge against her teacher grow stronger each day. O’Connell shows exceptional skill in building tension and creating atmosphere, particularly that of the neighborhood where Sandinista works. Minor characters—Sandinista’s co-worker, her boss, neighboring monks and shopkeepers (many of whom carry burdens of their own)—add color, depth, and comic relief. Their vulnerabilities and compassion have a strong impact on the heroine as she cautiously reaches out for support. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Laura J. Brown
Sandinista Jones is not the typical high school senior. She has her own way of expressing herself. She may be inspired by her punk rock name, but is brokenhearted by the recent death of her mother. She loved her mother and her mother loved and understood her. With her mother gone she feels lost, abandoned, and alone. She is not sure what to do. She tries to pay special attention to her schoolwork and just be "under the radar" at school. This becomes impossible when she has an altercation with a teacher and is totally humiliated. Sandinista feels as if she has been betrayed and considers retaliation against the teacher who hurt her. Her saving grace is a place she loves to shop called Pale Circus. It has vintage, artistic clothes that express her style. At Pale Circus she does not feel like a fish out of water, but part of something special. She decides to apply for a job at Pale Circus and to her great delight gets a job. Pale Circus gives her a place to be, with people who have similar taste and ideas. At Pale Circus she meets fellow co-worker Bradley, who has issues of his own. The two become friends and are able to support each other through this uncharted time in their lives. Sandinista finds new hope at Pale Circus and through Bradley's friendship slowly discovers that life can and does get better; but she has to choose which direction she will go in, hope and trust, or anger and revenge. The dialog contains a lot of profanity as Sandinista expresses her hurt, anger, and loss, but readers will see that she is just a girl transitioning into a young woman, and will want the best for her. Reviewer: Laura J. Brown
Kirkus Reviews
Palpable grief plus irreverent humor equal one extraordinary debut novel. After algebra teacher Mrs. Bennett inappropriately chides ADD-suffering Sandinista Jones (named for the seminal Clash album) for not paying attention in class, the 18-year-old, whose single mother has recently died, gives up on school and life. The situation reminds Sandinista of all the times she failed to stand up for a mentally challenged student during Mrs. Bennett's endless taunting. To fill her days, the teen quickly finds a job at the Pale Circus, a vintage clothing store, a companion in heartache with co-worker and "druggie Robin Hood" Bradley and in possession of a handgun. Her resonant, thought-provoking first-person narration reveals her mounting helplessness, tension and guilt as on each passing day the school fails to call her (who's not paying attention now?) and makes readers gulp in anticipation as she plots revenge against Mrs. Bennett. It takes a village, or at least a street full of eclectic shop workers in her rundown Kansas City neighborhood, to raise Sandinista out of despair. From her newfound community, comprised of the HIV-positive Pale Circus owner, Erika of Erika's Erotic Confections, a sympathetic pawn-shop owner and friendly Trappist monks, she finds faith, the will to go on in and unexpected beauty in an often cruel world. Sharp storytelling indeed. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, January 1, 2012:
“The book takes place over the course of a week, but there are so many thoughtfully drawn characters and intense emotions that it reads like a small lifetime.”

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2011:
"O’Connell shows exceptional skill in building tension and creating atmosphere."

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2011:
"Palpable grief plus irreverent humor equal one extraordinary debut novel. Sharp storytelling indeed."

VOYA - Amanda MacGregor
Eighteen-year-old Sandinista Jones feels all alone in the world. Since her mother's recent death, Sandinista has been living by herself, struggling to get through the days on her own. When her algebra teacher loses her cool, kicking Sandinista's desk and yelling at her in front of the class, Sandinista leaves school, and it does not look like she will go back. She immediately finds work at the Pale Circus, a vintage clothing store, where she makes fast friends with Bradley, a kindred spirit with baggage of his own. Sandinista finds herself obsessing over the incident with her teacher, waiting in vain for the school to call to straighten the mess out. Her imaginary revenge fantasies take a dark turn when she goes to buy a gun at the pawn shop. Sandinista feels certain she will not actually use the gun but cannot stop herself from repeatedly driving to the teacher's house, gun in her glove compartment and payback on the brain. As Sandinista teeters on the brink of self-destruction, she finds hope in burgeoning new friendships with an unusual cast of characters, including a Trappist monk, her HIV-positive boss, and the owner of an erotic bakery. Brilliant lyrical prose, clever banter, distinctive characters, and suspenseful plotting combine for a winning debut novel. Readers will hold their breath as they wait to see if Sandinista's grief will drown her but will be buoyed by the hope she finds in some of the most unexpected places. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Eighteen-year-old Sandinista Jones, whose mother named her after an album by the legendary punk band, the Clash, believes that no one cares about her. Her angry-at-the-world attitude comes from a place of deep pain: she doesn't know her father and just lost her mother in a car accident. In a few places, the author portrays Sandinista's grief vividly with writing that mixes her nightmares and daydreams with reality, but overall the thin plot rests on the teen's desire for violent revenge against a nasty math teacher (and there's graphic language throughout). Throw in ADD and a weight of 105 pounds, and you have a character with too many problems to be believable. Fortunately, her job at a vintage store and love of yesterday's fashions enable Sandinista to enjoy a passion she shared with her mother, softening the hurt a little. That and her friendship with coworker Bradley leave her at novel's end with some hope, and perhaps a touch of sympathy from readers.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

MARY O'CONNELL is a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and the author of the short story collection, Living with Saints. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in several literary magazines, and she is the recipient of a James Michener Fellowship and a Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award. The Sharp Time is her first novel.

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The Sharp Time 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
WishStealer More than 1 year ago
Simply amazing. Sandinista Jones bottles all her feelings of rage inside her and this book is about how she lets it out. She makes a new friend, gets a new job, while Catherine Bennett is always on the back of her mind. And, Sandinista has the coolest name ever. Try it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept my interest. Finished it in two days!! The timing of the subjest matter reflects many current situations. The descriptions of the characters really made them seem very real!
ChelseaW More than 1 year ago
I was not sure what to expect with this book. The premise sounded promising and the cover is a pretty rainbow of colors... but there was nothing that really stuck out for me and screamed "you have to read this book!" And I will be honest, it took a little work to get into this story. Mary O'Connell writes with flowery descriptions and a short attention span. Sandinista is brilliant as a narrator, but the reader has to work hard to keep up with her thoughts. There is no exposition and explanation to help the reader figure out what is going on with her thoughts. What really kept me moving through this book was the plot. When I figured out what happened to Sandinista in school, and what she was planning to do about it, I knew I had to keep reading and watch how it was all going to play out. Plus, as I went through the days with Sandinista, I felt a certain amount of satisfaction for sticking with the book and the writing. The story would not have been half as good if it had been written any other way. So if you are a reader that does not have the energy to figure out every little nuance on your own, you might want to pass on this one. Stick with it, and you will find yourself thinking about it long after you finish!