Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: October 5, 2010
Genres: YA, realistic fiction, mental health
My Rating: 5 Stars
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.
You know when you are 6 pages into a book, and you have to put it down because you’re thinking “This is probably the best book I’ve read in the last 5 years.” That was this book.
To be fair, this book may not be for everyone, it does deal with a school shooting and the aftermath of that so I can see how it would be hard for some to read, but I found it powerful and well written.
I hadn’t read a book that deals with this topic before, and honestly growing up in the time that I have I’m sort of surprised by that. Durning, my middle school and high school years school shootings, happened seemingly monthly. So that I had never picked up a book or come across books that focused on this topic seems a little odd. I’m sure there are plenty of them, I just hadn’t read them. So this book caught me by surprise by how deep and thoughtful it was about a topic that I’m sure wasn’t easy to write about.
The book is set up to show what happened leading up to the shooting as well as what is happening in the present. I can’t imagine what someone like Val is going through, but
Jennifer Brown takes this terrible event and makes you feel for someone who was involved. Val didn’t kill anyone, but her classmates know what she was involved in some way.
The journey that Val goes through, mental and physical, is so well done. Val is struggling to understand what happened, why her boyfriend did what he did, dealing with the fact that people are dead because of something she was a part of, even if she believed what they were talking about would never have happened.
Val is the type of character that I connect with. She’s on the outside of the social circles, unpopular, misunderstood. How she re-creates herself when she gets back to school is powerful. She connects with one of the popular girls when she gets back to school, something that Val feels is out of pity or to make the popular girl feel better about herself, but that relationship is the center of the changes in Val. It’s just so powerful.
This book plays around a lot with character names, which is something that I like to do with my characters. Val’s last name being “Leftman” and essentially every other character’s name has significance. To me, that’s the sign of a writer who spends a great deal of time thinking about a working with their characters.
I highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s a powerful and emotional read that made me sit back and think when I was finished with it. I own some of Jennifer Brown’s other books, but they are sitting in my gigantic TBR pile, I do look forward to reading more by this author.
Until Next time Internet,