In the still-rippling effects of a years-ago tragedy, the survivors cope with the burden of moving on.
When Cole and Matt were in first grade, a shooter killed 17 of their classmates and their principal. Yet life went on for those in the New Jersey suburb, and now they approach the summer after high school graduation. Cole, in the wake of his father’s death, is determined to finally overcome his awkwardness and connect with his longtime crush—although he’ll have to make some drug deals for his romantic master plan to get off the ground. Matt struggles with the guilt of having been at home sick during the shooting due to his diabetes and makes questionable health choices while starting a romantic relationship with a woman who is also irrevocably connected to that pivotal day. The default-white cast includes a classmate who was shot and left partially paralyzed and the autistic twin brother of their deceased friend; both are secondary characters with enough screen time to show their struggles but are barely developed beyond that and feel like idealized martyrs. The town’s diner—wallpapered with failed gun control bills—attests to the horrible commonplaceness of such tragedies. This debut avoids sensationalism, instead focusing on the boys’ attempts to make sense of the changes in their world while grappling with the things that never change.
A sober, introspective coming-of-age tale overshadowed by the all-too-real effects of a mass shooting. (Fiction. 16-adult)