Seventeen-year-old Carver Briggs feels responsible for the deaths of his best friends and must deal with his own life, now forever altered.
“Where are you guys? Text me back,” Carver texted his friend Mars, who replied, or at least started to, as proven by the half-composed text found on Mars’ phone at the crash site. Mars had been driving while texting, and his car smashed into a semi on the highway, killing Mars, Blake, and Eli. Carver feels responsible, but is he responsible? It turns out that under Tennessee law (Nashville is the setting for the story), Carver might be held as “criminally negligent,” since he knew Mars was driving and knew Mars would reply, even though he never intended to kill anyone. Zentner’s novel peels back the many layers of feeling that Carver experiences as he deals with his family, the families of his friends, and school, the present-tense narration putting readers directly in Carver’s head. However, although Carver is an unusually bright student with a supportive family and therapist, his voice is at times too adult, too didactic in delivering long passages of wise reflections about life normally gained from more time and experience. Still, it is a novel full of wisdom, even if Carver himself hasn’t had time to acquire all of it himself. Carver is white, as are Eli and Blake; Mars is black.
A fine cautionary tale and journey toward wisdom, poignant and realistic. (Fiction. 14-18)