The final moments before a disturbed young man sprays bullets into a crowd at a political event form the opening of this grim but intelligent novel.
The worlds of three teens overlap at the end of a summer that has brought unwelcome changes into their respective lives. Max, the privileged but miserable son of a state senator, meets and can’t get out of his mind a thoughtful, grieving young woman named Claire, whose beloved mom is hospitalized following a stroke. At the same time, Max’s co-worker Barkley, who writes crazed political missives to Max’s father, has begun to hear a voice directing his actions and has also spotted and become obsessed with Claire. Alternating narratives in the first person by each of the three at times seem to go on a bit too long, given that it’s clear from the beginning what the outcome will be. Claire is the most likable, and readers will appreciate her lack of cookie-cutter edges, both in her physical description and in her emotional ups and downs as she takes care of her younger sister largely on her own. Max is less sympathetic, at times frustratingly self-absorbed, but is also clearly struggling. And Barkley, adrift in an increasingly violent storm of mental illness, is deeply troubling.
Gripping, disturbing and nuanced. (Fiction. 14 & up)