November 07, 2013

Serious consequences for a sister

By Steve Watkins
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First of all, 17-year-old Sadie didn’t even want to go to that party with her older sister, Carla. She knew from past experiences that Carla, notorious for her reckless behavior, was oblivious to responsibility. And, sure enough, as soon as the sisters arrive at the party, Carla is chugging drinks and clinging to a guy whom Sadie nicknames “Scuzzy.” Completely out of her element, Sadie passes time playing beer pong with Scuzzy’s friend, “Dreadlocks.” When a near-comatose Carla finally reappears, Scuzzy and Dreadlocks ask for a ride to get more beer. Don’t do it, says a small voice in Sadie’s head.

When she drives them to the 7-Eleven, the guys ask her to park in the back. Weird, thinks Sadie. Scuzzy and Dreadlocks then disappear. Unbeknownst to Sadie, a backpack full of weed sits in the back seat next to Carla. Minutes later, the girls are arrested by an undercover cop.

Carla is legally an adult with two priors and a 3-year-old daughter. As Sadie is a minor, a good student and a gifted basketball player who might receive comparably light punishment, Sadie’s family asks her to take the fall. She does, landing a six-month sentence in a juvenile detention center.

Sadie is shocked by the way inmates are dehumanized in juvie. Small infractions bring harsh punishment. Some of the girls in her unit are deeply disturbed, guilty of terrible crimes. Still, Sadie finds it challenging to suppress her caring instinct. But she begins to realize that good will must be tempered by caution and that she is responsible for the consequences of her actions, even if she sublimates the motive. This is an important concept for many teens, who may greatly underestimate their own complicity when passively supporting risky behavior.

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By Steve Watkins
ISBN 9780763655099

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