In this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller, two high-school seniors and a classroom full of first-graders are held hostage at gunpoint by a distraught, emotionally disturbed parent.
Classmates and former couple Emery and Jake have signed up to teach French to Mrs. Campbell's first-grade class three mornings a week. One day, their lesson is interrupted when Brian Stutts, an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, barges into the room and demands his son, Patrick. Stutts is having a custody dispute with his estranged wife. When the teacher refuses to let Stutts take his son, he draws a gun. A security guard appears at the door, and the startled Stutts shoots him dead. When Mrs. Campbell lapses into a diabetic seizure, Emery and Jake are left to comfort the children and placate Stutts. Despite their own fears and self-doubts, revealed in alternating present-tense chapters, the teens are remarkably composed outwardly. Their history together and personal back stories—Jake has been adrift since his mother died; Emery has a nervous condition that brings on panic attacks—help keep readers involved as the pages turn. The hours-long standoff comes to a dramatic and violent climax, but the loose ends of the story are tied up too easily.
Nevertheless, a vividly depicted and gripping tragedy. (Thriller. 12 & up)