Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: The Sharp Time by Mary O'Connell

Title: The Sharp Time
Author: Mary O'Connell
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release date: November 8th 2011
Pages: 228
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought
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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 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.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I've been staring at the screen trying to figure out how to explain this book for way too long already. I still don't know what to make of it. The Sharp Time is strange, and it kept going back and forth between being too weird for me and being amazing in a very unique way. But ultimately, while there are things I didn't understand, I couldn't help but marvel at the beauty of the weirdness of it all.

The writing is what carries the novel. Even when I was confused and didn't know what was going on, I always marveled at the pure beauty of the words. The author's words are mesmerizing, they did something to my mind, because I honestly couldn't stop reading. Mary O'Connell's style won't work for everyone - it's mainly stream of consciousness, and I know that wouldn't work for some readers. But I for one loved it; Sandinista's pain is presented in a raw and honest way, making her a character that I grew to feel for and love. There were parts where I felt kind of removed from the story and our main character, but I didn't mind - that helped emphasize the guarded, hardened aspect of Sandinista's character. And like I said, even when I couldn't relate to the story, I still enjoyed the writing, which is simply gorgeous.

I loved the secondary characters, too. Each of them has their own story that we only get a tiny glimpse of. I can see how this might disappoint some readers, and I, too, would have loved to get to know some of them more, but I loved the little bit of insight we got into their lives. The portrayal of the secondary characters contributes to the overall feeling that this is less a story with beginning and ending and more just a portrayal of one week in real people's lives.

If you need a fully-developed plot, The Sharp Time probably isn't for you because, to be honest, I have no idea what happens in the novel. There really isn't much of a plot - the novel is just Sandinista's thoughts, going around and around and around. Sandinista ponders the same things over and over again, which sounds boring but somehow works - that's just the obsessive way she thinks, and I loved being inside a mind like that.

The Sharp Time is not your typical YA novel. There's no romance, no real coming-of-age; we just spend a week inside the mind of a deeply disturbed girl. There's no action; we simply get raw, honest feelings. It's a strange story, but it's somehow fascinating, mesmerizing - I couldn't stop reading. If you like literary YA and want a unique, original novel, The Sharp Time is definitely for you.


  1. I've never read a stream-of-conciousness type of writing before. However, I do love books where you just spend a week in someone's head, even if it means absence of plot. Just nothing but human behavior and raw thoughts. Thanks for the awesome review! Will have to add this to the tbr pile.


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