Inspired by the author's work in a girls' rehabilitation center.
Ray called it skating when we did the crazy things . . . Hot-wiring a fancy car for a joyride after midnight. Boosting stuff from stores . . .
Sixteen-year-old Dallas loves the rush, the excitement of "skating." But then she and her friends decide to rob a convenience store and it's Dallas who gets caught while the others get away. Since it is her first offense, she thinks her father will help her out - but when the judge says she can go home on probation her father says no, he can't control her. So the judge gives Dallas six months in the Girls' Rehabilitation Center. Once there, Dallas meets an assortment of "bad" girls, many of whom don't expect to change, and those who do often don't make it. How Dallas comes to terms with herself - both the bad and the good - makes for a heartfelt and insightful novel about troubled teenagers and the odds they face in trying to turn their lives around.
About the Author
Jean Ferris is the author of many books, including Invincible Summer and All That Glitters, which were both ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She lives in Coronado, California.
Reading Group Guide
n In her Author's Note, Jean Ferris explains that this book grew out of a series of interviews she did at the Girls' Rehabilitation
Facility in San Diego. The bedtime stories are an actual practice at the facility. In the book,
were you surprised at how important this was to the girls? Why do you think they enjoyed it so much? Dallas says, "The bedtime stories
urged us on with poems and fables." [p. 178]
What are some of the titles of the bedtime readings? Why do you suppose the readers chose these particular stories?
n "Habit's a big part of the criminal life,
and habits are hard to break," says Connie.
[p. 148] What is her answer for this problem?
How is this related to what Shatasia says about the routine at the center: "There's way
too many rules . . . but I still like to know
what's happenin' next." [p. 39]
n Contrast the blame and disapproval of
Dallas's father toward her with "the staff's
encouragement and goading [that] indicated
we were worth salvaging." [p. 169] What is the effect of negative expectations from other people on a person's self-image? Find some other places in the book where we see this in action.
n "The struggle to get where they wanted us
to go seemed too hard," thinks Dallas. "Only
in Shatasia and in some of the books Kate
had given me had I been able to see someone
actually making that struggle, seen how
painful the effort could be." [p. 178] How does she think reading can help her in the future?
On the last page of the novel is a list of the books Kate has given her. [p. 182] Have you read any of these? What books would you add that would help a person trying to find her or his way?
n When Dallas's father answers only "I'm
your father" as a reason he might want to visit her, she says "I need a better answer." [p. 96]
What is the answer she wants, and why is it so hard for him to realize what it is? Why can't she bring herself to give him even the slightest clue to what she needs? What does each misunderstand about the other, and what good reasons do they have to be angry?
n As Dallas leaves the GRC for the group home, she looks at the guidebook to Texas that Nolan has given her and thinks, "I was
going traveling and I needed to know the
way." [p. 182] Does this mean she is actually going to Texas or something else about her
"journey" to find herself? Do you think it is likely that she will make it "on the outs"? How about Shatasia? Toozdae? Valencia? With all the help and good advice they have been given at GRC, why is it still so hard for all these girls to build new lives for themselves?
To Find Out More about Kids in Jail
Jack Gantos. Hole in My Life. New York:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.
Walter Dean Myers. Monster. New York:
Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Life in Prison.
Lancaster, Calif.: SeaStar / Chronicle Books,
The Beat Within: Writing and Art from the Inside.
A weekly online newsletter outlet for the thoughts, stories, opinions, and ideas of incarcerated youth expressed in striking poetry and art.
"I'm Arrested. Now What?"
A detailed step-by-step description of what happens to a minor in Orange County,
California, who commits a crime and is taken to jail to be booked.
Juvenile Hall Literacy Program
A program of book talks and author visits to
Juvenile Hall in Alameda County, California,
has had dramatic results. Here the readers talk