Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1570
One Decision Changes Everything
Overall rating
Writing Style
Paul Fleischman's tale of atonement is deceptive. It has a strange drawing on the cover (which turns out to be a whirligig) and is only 144 pages, so one would think that is a breezy little ditty. It's not. Whirligig starts out with a bang (literally, a drunk driving accident) and continues to be thoughtful and heavy throughout.

After Brent kills a girl in a mistaken suicide attempt, he is sentenced to place whirligigs in the four corners of the US in order to honor her. Brent is a spoiled teen whose parents want to figure out his problems for him, but he decides to head out on a road trip to fulfill his mission. Along the way, he learns self-reliance, his values, and how to forgive himself and others.

Fleischman grows Brent beautifully into a man who is shaped by the actions he's taken. I often like to think in terms of "sliding doors" (like the Gwyneth Paltrow movie), where would Brent be without this tragedy? Definitely a worse person, drifting angrily throught life. I hope my students are able to look past the cover, which definitely won't appeal to them, and enjoy this story. I know I will be pushing it hard to the ninth graders who are making big decisions right now.
Good Points
Brent's coming of age is realistic
Teaches about consequences without being preachy
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