School shootings are not my favorite topic in YA literature, but I think it is important to look at the issue rather than to ignore it. While I felt this book had good intentions, I found it more frightening than anything.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
The auditorium doors won’t open.
Someone starts shooting.
Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
I have mixed feelings about this book because I was really engaged, but I was left feeling a little helpless. This book covers a school shooting from the perspective of various intertwined high school characters. Initially, the shift from character to character is confusing, and it did take a while for me to get everyone sorted out. Even after I got the narrators straight, I still struggled with siblings and parents because it was such a vast cast. The tweets that were interspersed throughout the narrative were confusing and I couldn’t always identify the characters who were sending or receiving them (probably because I’m old). Despite that difficulty, I found the book very compelling. There are too many characters to list, but the shooter’s sister, her girlfriend, and the shooter’s ex girlfriend all contribute memories and impressions that form a picture of a disturbed boy who crosses a line into madness without clear warning. I found myself drawn into this story for that picture. The first and last question anyone has about a school shooting is always “Why?” This book does a good job of answering that question, but it also left me feeling a little like there was no way to predict or prevent this incident and I was left wondering what the message was here. The topic is given the appropriate gravity and handled with sensitivity while maintaining a nightmarish realism, but there just wasn’t anything I took away from the book other than the horror and shock of a terrible tragedy that probably couldn’t have been prevented or stopped. I understand that some books are about character development, and this book has a lot of that – characters find their courage and have epiphanies about love, life and sacrifice that will change them forever, but I think this book has the potential to simply make readers afraid of their school more than anything else. As a teacher who has been trained for an active shooter crisis, this got even my anxiety levels up, so I think the situations and violence make this most appropriate for mature high school readers.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.