A well-written and mesmerizing story that combines a school shooting with Islamophobia, xenophobia and the danger of the far right.
The book starts off literally with a bang, when a bomb goes off outside the school. From there we follow a number of different viewpoints, from a mother desperately looking for her son to the police officer in charge to teachers and students trapped inside, including one who is a Syrian refugee.
The writing is sparsely elegant, the characters well fleshed out, the story tense and gripping. Lupton is one of my favorite authors, with a masterful ability to write beautiful, lyrical prose. I adored her debut book, Sister.
This one did, however, feel very familiar to a fictionalized version of Columbine. Having read A Mother’s Reckoning, I found a number of things to not only be similar, but the same. One of the shooters is basically an ode to Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters. Even the mother’s reaction and emotions to him being the shooter, the older brother, various facets of his personality, all felt the same. If you’ve read much on the Columbine shootings, or Sue Klebold’s book, A Mother’s Reckoning, this book will feel a little familiar, like a fictionalised version of that, without many twists or surprises to shake you up.
That being said, the book addresses many relevant social issues, such as the danger of radicalization by dissatisfied youth, social media, the rise of white supremacy, and the power of the media to twist facts that have enduring repercussions. It is a tale of courage and love in the face of extreme adversity, positing that love is the most powerful thing there is, which is a worthy theme from any book.