*Starred Review* Sandinista’s life is not going as planned. Her mother has just died; she lives alone, terrified in their house; and an abusive teacher has made her flee school. Something different is in order, so Sandinista goes to her favorite vintage shop, the Pale Circus, and takes a job. Now she is living in two worlds. One is work and the not-yet-gentrified neighborhood that also hosts a pawn shop, an erotic bakery, and a monastery, home to jam-making monks. The other is the world of her imagination, where she plots to kill her teacher. Though the central will-she-or-won’t-she question moves the plot, what will hold readers spellbound are the words and images that swirl through the pages. Set in the winter, the story is wrapped in cold: Sandinista’s icy inner dialogue; the frigid feel of a pink gun against her hand; the “sweet lacquered crescendo of glass crashing on snow,” when she throws a granite toad through the teacher’s window. But there is also warmth, especially in the form of the Pale Circus’ other young employee, Bradley, whose own pain allows him to know how to ease Sandinista’s. O’Connell’s references to the beauties and evils of Catholicism add elements in equal parts transcendent and gritty. 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. Which, for Sandinista, it is. Grades 9-12. --Ilene Cooper
Starred Review, Booklist, January 1, 2012:
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“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."