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Down Sand Mountain by Steve Watkins
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Down Sand Mountain

by Steve Watkins

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This is one of those YA books where the author really puts you deep inside the narrator, and in doing so gives that narrator an unforgettable voice, one that is so honest and true that you feel like the character is alive. Some first-person YA novels feel skeletal in that you sense that you're not really seeing or feeling or knowing everything that the narrator is experiencing. In my reading experience, the books that transcend this type of limited first-person viewpoint are rare. A few that spring immediately to mind are The Book of Fred, The Reappearance of Sam Webber, and some book that for the life of me I cannot remember the title of even though it was totally awesome (I think it was set in some bleak midwestern state and it was the first book I thought of when I started reading this book). I thought of that other book for two reasons: one, there was a similarity in the two narrators' voices; and two, both books feature some sort of man-made formation that figures prominently in the story. In this book, it's obviously a sand mountain. Unfortunately I can't remember what it was in the other book, but I think it was also something big and tall like a mountain. If this rings any bells for anyone, please suggest possible titles as I would like to re-read the book (a rare inclination for me). Whew, this review really got off-course... ( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
In 1966, 12 year old Dewey is small for his age. In seventh grade in the junior-senior high school he is bullied by two seniors but dosn't want to tell anyone. His only friend is a girl who is just as lonely as he is. During this year, Dewey learns about his town, its residents, racism and something about his own family. ( )
  pmlyayakkers | Jul 20, 2012 |
Reviewed by Grandma Bev for TeensReadToo.com

It's 1966 and there is still a lot of racial tension and discrimination in this small Florida town. The Vietnam war is in high gear, and Dewey Turner has many personal issues to deal with.

Dewey desperately wants to be the "Shoeshine Boy" in next year's minstrel show at school, but dying his face with black shoe polish turns out to be the wrong thing to do because it won't wash off. The kids start calling him Sambo, and then the bullies won't let him use the bathroom that they have labeled "Whites Only," and continue to do so long after the shoe polish wears off.

He is ostracized by his classmates, picked on by bullies, and his father deals out discipline with his belt.

Dewey's brother, Wayne, is the only person willing to talk to him besides another outsider, Darla Turkel. Darla is a bouncy, Shirley Temple look-alike who befriends Dewey.

His problems escalate when his dad sends him and Wayne into Boogerbottom, the black section of town, to deliver campaign posters - and they run into more trouble than they can handle.

DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN is an authentic look back in history, and a riveting chronicle of the emotional issues of being a teenager. It does introduce some sexual complications in a couple of scenes that I thought should have been omitted - the story is great without those problems.

Overall, though, this is a fast-paced story filled with the emotional roller-coaster of teen angst. The characters are realistic and compelling. It is a complex story that is by turns funny, sad, lonely, and sometimes frightening, but one thing is for sure: it will stay with you long after the last page is finished. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0763638390, Hardcover)

In a tale full of humor and poignancy, a sheltered twelve-year-old boy comes of age in a small Florida mining town amid the changing mores of the 1960s.

It's 1966 and Dewey Turner is determined to start the school year right. No more being the brunt of every joke. No more "Deweyitis." But after he stains his face with shoe polish trying to mimic the popular Shoeshine Boy at the minstrel show, he begins seventh grade on an even lower rung, earning the nickname Sambo and being barred from the "whites only" bathroom. The only person willing to talk to him, besides his older brother, Wayne, is fellow outsider Darla Turkel, who wears her hair like Shirley Temple and sings and dances like her, too. Through their friendship, Dewey gains awareness of issues bigger than himself and bigger than his small town of Sand Mountain: issues like race and segregation, the reality of the Vietnam War, abuse, sexuality, and even death and grieving. Written in a riveting, authentic voice, at times light-hearted and humorous and at others devastating and lonely, this deeply affecting story will stay with readers long after the book is closed.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In a small Florida mining town in 1966, twelve-year-old Dewey faces one worst-day-ever after another, but comes to know that the issues he faces about bullies, girls, race, and identity are part of the adult world, as well.

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