"You shouldn't expect much of him. He's...he's damaged." Damaged. What a horrible word. Like a car after a wreck...It was how I'd been feeling myself. Slightly ruined, a big mess.
Lately there have been a lot of guys in Sandpiper's life. In the past year, she's gone through eight or nine different boyfriends -- if you can call them that. She knows the boys are only using her for one thing, but she is using them, too.
The Walker is different from the others. He is kind and gentle. Mysterious. And most of all, he is the first guy who doesn't want Sandy for all the usual reasons. In fact, she's not sure if he wants her for any reason.
But she knows she wants to be around him. He makes her feel safe, when all the other parts of her life -- like her family and friends -- just make her feel awful. And when one of Sandy's exes starts harassing her, the Walker may be the only person who can help Sandy confront her uneasy past -- and steady herself for a different future.
Wittlinger's (Heart on My Sleeve) intense novel introduces Sandpiper, who learned in the eighth grade that performing oral sex is a "foolproof method" to having a boyfriend. Now a sophomore, she finds that "after a week or so with a guy... I couldn't stand him anymore." During one such breakup, she meets the mysterious Walker (so named because he walks all over town, "like he had someplace to go but wasn't in a big hurry to get there") and befriends him. On their walks, he avoids discussing his past, but she tells him about her reputation and Derek, the spurned guy who threatens her. Walker tells her that she's "worth" something and even gives her a new name: Piper. But as her mother's wedding plans accelerate, so does the harassment (Derek throws rocks at her cat and cuts her younger sister, making it look like an accident). Finally, a vicious attack forces Piper and Walker to face their dark pasts. The friendship never feels completely realistic, and Piper's poems, which run between chapters, sap the pacing, but readers will still be enticed into Piper's world. Wittlinger carefully demonstrates how Piper's behavior is unhealthy ("Oral sex is real sex!... you don't do it with everyone you meet," her father shouts), while making it clear that she is not to blame for Derek's frightening behavior. Piper's relationship with her father is particularly well drawn. Ages 12-up.