A shooting breaks out inside a Portland, Oregon, mall, leaving many people dead and the remaining survivors as hostages of a right-wing American terrorist group with an anti-government agenda.
Six teens successfully hide inside empty shops while the deadly situation unfolds, but soon they must decide whether to remain hidden, run, or fight back. The better-developed characters, who are all white, are wrestler Parker Gray, troubled drug addict Miranda Nash, cancer patient Grace Busby (who sees her mother die in front of her eyes), and ultraconservative conspiracy theorist Cole Bond. Meanwhile, two nonwhite characters—undocumented Mexican immigrant Javier Ramirez and the Somali American hijabi Amina Abdi—remain superficial stereotypes. Told in real time as it happens, the novel starts with alternating viewpoint chapters from all the teenagers, yet, bafflingly, two, Parker and Miranda, take over early on while the other four narrators’ perspectives disappear. Ending with one of its heroes troublingly wondering whether the terrorists may have made some valid points in terms of their beliefs, if not their methods, this fast-paced yet lackluster thriller fails to impress. The addition of a couple of twists to the story may lead readers to question whether mass shootings should ever be presented as entertainment.
Readers seeking thrillers that contain thoughtful social commentary should look elsewhere. (Thriller. 15-18)