Sandpiper

by Ellen Wittlinger

“Obviously the way to an eighth grade boy’s heart was through the zipper... read more

“Obviously the way to an eighth grade boy’s heart was through the zipper of his jeans. It probably wasn’t the only way, but it was the only way we knew.” At sixteen, Sandpiper Ragsdale is reflecting upon her early sexual encounters. She has become sexually adventurous and she speaks with the confidence of a much older woman who is aware of her calculated use of sex and power. It’s hard to forget that she is still a very young girl and unsure of herself. Her family is preoccupied with her mother’s upcoming wedding, leaving Sandy feeling even more isolated and pigeonholed by classmates who won’t let her forget her choices. The only thing that offers solace is her writing, and between each chapter, Wittlinger includes one of Sandy’s poems, which together form a remarkable book within a book. Sandy finds herself drawn to The Walker, a mysterious boy she sees around town, and while Sandy knows he is not truthful about who he is, both teens find comfort in one another in spite of the secrets they keep. When Sandy is threatened and eventually attacked by a former boyfriend, many people feel she got what she deserved, but it is Walker who protects her and ultimately helps her put herself back together. Wittlinger confronts the sensitive and often controversial topic of teenage sex by creating realistic characters whose relationships are at once their downfall and their salvation, and whose growth and development as individuals allow them to contribute to others. At its heart, this is a story about what happens when the good of a family persists in spite of the weaknesses of any member, and how the strength of that whole is what will ultimately save the individual. (Ages 15–17)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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