- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (November 8, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385740484
- ISBN-13: 978-0385740487
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,859,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sharp Time Hardcover – November 8, 2011
The Amazon Book Review
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*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:
“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."
Top customer reviews
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Sandinista is too open-hearted to remain alone for long. She's "a glammed Rosie the Riveter, off her shift and searching for love: Hello, you big bad world." Her heart becomes "agog with sudden cuckoo bird love" for almost every character she encounters on 38th Street in downtown Kansas City-- the Trappist Monks, the storekeepers, and most especially her co-worker, who is "going retro with his angst." His "vintage Sex Pistols T-shirt, Levi's with a two-inch rolled cuff and black motorcycle boots," pairs prettily with her "wolfish soft pink mohair sweater, plaid pencil skirt, cream tights, chocolate suede T-straps and waist length raspberry fake fur."
Yet even as "the aesthetic of my life has improved about one hundred and five percent," something remains missing. Sandinista returns to her empty house eagerly "expecting the wild siren flash of multiple missed messages: maybe not the police, but at least the principal, the counselor, my Honors English teacher, Ms. Lisa Kaplansky. A friend or two. But no." Could the "big bad world" be truly indifferent to Sandinista's existence?
Sandinista is given the gift of a "girl gun" with "a shiny snub nosed barrel and a sweet pink handle with ivory mosaic inlay every bit as luscious as peppermint marzipan swirled with cream." With the gun comes an unwanted opportunity for revenge against her algebra teacher. "I feel my victim's mind-set fading away, replaced by a new idea, the attendant breathlessness of a new idea."
Is there anyone out there who can stop Sandinista from pulling the trigger?
Mary O'Connell has created a delicious Technicolor world that makes for a joyful read and would no doubt make for a luscious indie flick in the spirit of My Own Private Idaho. Every sentence sparkles.
Mary O'Connell's The Sharp Time is a unique, quiet novel that sneaked up on me. I credit Trish Doller with my discovery of The Sharp Time, as she posted about it on her (fabulous, must-follow) Tumblr, and since I adored Trish's book, Something Like Normal, I figured that The Sharp Time was worth the read based on her recommendation.
The Sharp Time begins shortly after ADD-afflicted 18-year-old Sandinista Jones--her free spirit mother named her after the Clash album--has left school following a bizarre conflict with a teacher. Sandinista's mother has recently died in a fluke accident and the incident at school was the last straw. She's lonely and angry and lost, wrestling with violent urges.
She says "so long" to school and gets a job (after a truly bizarre interview) at The Pale Circus, a vintage clothing store run by the eccentric Henry Charbonneau. While working at The Pale Circus, Sandinista becomes friends with Bradley, the other employee of the shop who has secrets of his own, and makes connections with the other neighborhood characters, including a pawn shop owner, erotic candy maker and a monk. These characters combine to create a lively story of a week in the life of a character on the edge.
This urban setting absolutely dazzles with its realism. I'm always on the lookout for fiction set in urban environments, so this was an unexpected treat. While looking through the notes in my Kindle, I found on several occasions that I'd make a notation along the lines of, "This setting seems so real!"
And, frankly, that's kind of unexpected, because on its face The Sharp Time's setting seems like it could any city, yet The Pale Circus' neighborhood is lively and distinct, without ever reading as artificially "Quirky!" and "Funky!" Each passage in this slim novel reads beautifully, yet is also purposeful.
While The Sharp Time is published by the children's imprint of Random House, I am not entirely sure that the people who will enjoy this novel the most are the YAs. More likely, I see this appealing to Gen-Xers (due to a number of eighties references) who appreciate smart, surprising contemporary fiction with literary leanings. The fact that it has a narrator who is a teen means that it could be a gateway into reading YA for folks who are turned off by the "teen fiction" label. That's not to say that some teens wouldn't enjoy The Sharp Time, but it's definitely got a more mature vibe.
At its core, this is a novel about friendship and its transformative power. It's rare to find this theme trackled in fresh ways, making The Sharp Time a different little novel that's best savored for the beauty of the words.
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I've read a lot of YA books about parents dying and kids being shipped away which leads to some...Read more