“Whirligig”

Whirligig by Paul Fleishman

In trying to kill himself, Brent causes an accident that kills Lea Zamora, a high school senior whose life is very promising. Brent was drunk and had just been humiliated at a party by the girl he is lusting after. His actions were thoughtless and now a wonderful person is dead. How can Brent atone—how does he seek forgiveness?

Lea’s mom, though grieving, is the person who helps him, oddly enough, by asking him to make reparations. As part of a program for victim’s families, Lea’s mom requests that Brent make whirligigs and place them in the four corners of the United States—Maine, Florida, Washington, and California. She asks this because Lea loved whirligigs and seeing these blown by the wind would make people happy. Brent is not required by law to do what Mrs. Zamora asks, and his parents raise all sorts of objections, as if to protect him. But Brent is very sorry about what he’s done. He NEEDS to repent and so agrees to the request. Mrs. Zamora gives him a 45-day bus pass good all over the country and a disposable camera to take pictures of the whirligigs when he finishes them.

The story shows how Brent’s odyssey changes him into a better person as he endures physical fatigue and becomes more skilled in carpentry. It also shows, through interspersed chapters, the effect that Brent’s whirligigs (all of them have Lea in them in some way) have on people who see and enjoy them.

This is a beautiful story about the need for forgiveness as well as about growing up and accepting responsibility for one’s actions–and the journey there. If you’ve read Homer’s “The Odyssey,” I wonder if you see a connection.

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About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Fiction, Hi-Low/Quick Read, Literary Read Alike, Read 180, Young Adult Literature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Whirligig”

  1. kid lib says:

    Great read!

    This book makes one realize how many lives each of us may touch every day without even knowing it. Something as simple as a smile or a “hello” can change the way someone feels.

    We really do have power to change the world we live in by the way we treat each other and the actions we take or don’t take.

    One of my favorite books for young adults.

  2. Adrienne G. says:

    ti thought this book was pretty interesting because in certain parts of the book it takes you to different parts of the U.S. and tells a story about each of them, how each whirligig affected his or her life. my favorite was Washington, the woman that Brent meets is really unique and a bit eccentric.

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