This is not the first book I've read about a school shooting and it probably won't be the last. This kind of thing seems to have become far too frequent an occurrence in American schools.
The book opens in the chaos of the shooting and follows a group of survivors through the aftermath. The survivors are a mixture of students, parents and other adults associated with the shooting. Which for me, made this a confusing read. Is it supposed to be YA? If so, why are there so many adult voices in there? Or is it for adults? If so, why doesn't it go deeper into the way this kind of event can affect adult relationships?
Because the book straddled the line between YA and adult, I didn't feel like it really did justice to either audience that well. The voices of the characters were not distinct enough to recognize who was narrating any one section and the young voices were not that different from the older ones. It was surprising to me to discover the book was written by four authors because the voices were all so similar.
And there were so many characters to keep straight!
There's Lily who was an accomplice to the shooting in that she let her boyfriend into the school to, she thought, make a little mischief. There's Keisha, the over-achiever whose life was saved by the guidance counsellor whose office she was in at the time of the shooting. There's Sofia whose father is one of the policemen who entered the school first to take down the shooter. There's Caitlin, Sofia's best friend who is shot, but not initially killed in the shooting.
There's Charmaine, the nurse at the hospital who receives the victims and is the wife of the slain guidance counsellor, there's Joe, Sofia's father and the cop who enters the school first, there's Caitlin's father, Mike, dealing with the grief of losing his daughter.
And there's the killer who is known primarily by his initials, ABC. There are a few sections from his POV too.
The book follows these characters through the shooting and the weeks following it, through their grief and anger and accusation and attempts to heal. Each has their own way of dealing with the events but they all come together at a support group, not knowing the accomplice they are all anxious to find is actually sitting among them, grieving alongside them and dealing with her guilt at the same time.
The characters were racially diverse - Asian, Latino, Black and white, but I felt a little uncomfortable with the representation. It felt very stereotypical, especially the representation of Lily's parents as Asian tiger parents, interested only in school and not caring about art or anything else. The Spanish sprinkled into conversation amongst the Latino families didn't feel authentic either, not like the writers actually spoke Spanish with their own families.
This was an interesting book dealing with sensitive and important subject matter, but I feel like it could have been stronger if it had focused only on the teen experiences or only on the adults. Trying to balance both meant neither was fully realized - a shame when dealing with such powerful material.
Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this one early!
But don't just listen to me. Here's the blurb:Straight-A student Lily Jeong, misunderstood by helicopter parents and ignored by thoughtless classmates, sneaks her manipulative boyfriend into Rockwell High believing he’ll get revenge for her recent public humiliation. But he breaks his promise that no one will get hurt, and minutes later, fourteen people are dead.
Plagued by guilt, Lily invents one lie after another to evade arrest. While devastated survivors grieve, investigators make slow progress identifying the accomplice, and class president Keisha Washington—Lily’s long-time nemesis who narrowly escaped death—resolves to hunt down the culprit herself. As Lily dodges detection, she bonds with Sofia Hernandez, who lost her best friend, Caitlyn Moran, in the shooting.
The adults around them—Joe Hernandez, Sofia’s father, and the first policeman to enter the school; Charmaine Robinson, a nurse whose husband died protecting Keisha; and former Army Colonel Mike Moran, Caitlyn’s father—also struggle to piece together their wrecked lives. When they come together in a support group, instead of finding solace, their mounting feelings of grief and anger drive them to protest and vengeance. Will they ever find justice and peace?