Jeannette starts seventh grade, which means she now attends the area high school, a large school to which many of the small towns in the area bus their students. Jeannette appreciates being in a larger school and being a less visible target for bullies. Her former bully and now friend, Dinitia, also attends the school. Dinitia ends up pregnant however, and shortly after learning the news, Jeannette hears that Dinitia stabbed her mom's boyfriend to death, which suggests to Jeannette that he was the father.
Jeannette does not trust boys. She is, however, growing more conscious of her looks and is distressed by her bucked teeth. She decides to fashion some braces to wear at night, after studying orthodontia at the library. Dad wakes her up one night and discovers her wearing her rubber-band and wire contraption and encourages her ingenuity.
Additionally, Jeannette finds comfort at her new school through participation on the school newspaper, supervised by the same English teacher Dad had when he was in high school. Jeannette starts as a proofreader and loves being able to spend hours at the local newspaper, which prints the school's paper. She reads articles off the AP wire (a news-distribution service) and is astounded to learn about the outside world through a source other than her parents.
In Sections 18-19, Walls develops more fully the character of Jeannette as an adolescent, focusing on the themes of sexuality and intellectual growth. First, Dinitia's tragic story serves as another, more severe example of sexual abuse. Recall that Jeannette has already seen glimpses of such violence in her own experience — her own experiences with Billy Deel, for instance, as well as Brian's abuse by Grandma Erma — and Dinitia's story shows how suffering such assault can lead to the tragic circumstances that resulted in her murdering her assailant. These experiences make Jeannette wary of boys and reluctant to engage in stereotypical crushes and infatuations and spur her independent streak — as indicated by her participation on the school paper.
Jeannette's experiences reading the AP wire help to build her growing resolve and will. Not only is she beginning to question her parents' decisions, but she is also learning to see the world through her own eyes. By weighing news reports against her parents' worldview, Jeannette sees how paranoid and skewed her parents' perception of the world is. Her entrance into news reporting foreshadows her growing disconnection from her parents and her increasing independence as she becomes a teenager and young adult.