The Beltway sniper shootings and the attacks of 9/11 become the crucible for this exploration of teenage grief and love.
Thirteen months after the 9/11 attacks, 15-year-old Craig wakes up to find that his menagerie of five cats, four dogs, three rabbits, a bird and a guinea pig have all escaped. Meanwhile, Lio, also 15, is using his therapy sessions to explore his feelings for Craig instead of dealing with the death of his twin brother from leukemia. Hunting for the animals, the teens end up arguing over the destruction of the World Trade Center, the damage to the Pentagon and the peculiar allocation of the country's collective grief. Enigmatic characters, emotional manipulation and the convoluted plot keep Moskowitz’s third novel from achieving the impact of her previous works (Invincible Summer, 2011, etc.). Craig is an especially remote character, with somewhat autistic mannerisms, and it's difficult to relate to him through either inner and or interpersonal dialogue. His relationship with Lio is not so much developed as forced. There’s no skill in the treatment of these two high-profile tragedies; they both come across as cheap emotional touchstones rather than opportunities to honestly explore grief, loss and shared sorrow. What with the lost pets, the unclear relationship Craig has with his ex-boyfriend, a suicide hotline and dead siblings, there’s simply too much going on.
A complete miss from an otherwise solid author. (Fiction. 14 & up)