The day after a summer festival, two teenagers find the body of a schoolmate by the side of a road.
The fictional college town of Goldsburg is the setting for this compelling novel based on a true story from the author’s own hometown in Virginia. Goldsburg’s annual Deadwood Days weekend is what keeps the local kids from total boredom. The shocking events of the summer of 1979 are narrated by a cast of white teenagers (all with epithets) who had all seen Christopher the night before he was murdered: Doc “The Sleepwalker” Chestnut, Squib “The Genius” Kaplan, Hunger “The Good Ol’ Boy” McCoy, Hazel “The Farm Girl” Turner, and Mildred “The Stamp Collector” Penny. As a means to help the students work through their grief, they’ve been assigned to write memorial poems. The novel is cleverly constructed in their rotating prose and verse accounts starting four weeks after Deadwood Days and working backward. Set amid these narratives is the voice of the 15-year-old killer, Leonard “The Runaway” Pelf. The six teens have distinct personalities—Squib is pragmatic and cautious (and has Tourette’s syndrome), for instance, and Hunger dabbles in taxidermy—and perspectives. Some hardly knew one another before the summer; some have close friendships tested. All of them feel some responsibility for the circumstances that led to that night’s events. Within the confines of the assignment, they move nearly imperceptibly toward a greater understanding of themselves and each other.
A heartfelt, intricate examination of what underlies human behavior. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13-17)