A lot can happen in the hospital waiting room in the wake of a tragedy.
When Boston’s Tobin Bridge collapses into the Mystic River, it takes nearly 200 drivers and passengers with it. A third-person omniscient narrator alternates through the perspectives of five teen characters—strangers who are connected to the victims—as they wait with hundreds of others at the hospital for news about the incident. Siblings Jason and Alexa are “well-to-do New England WASPs” from Back Bay whose lives have already been transformed after the death of a close friend—closeted Jason’s secret boyfriend. Cambodian-American Skyler, who is raised by her grandparents, is mixed up in an abusive relationship with an upperclassman. Scott and Morgan, who are both white, have their own secret back stories. Vanity Fair film critic Lawson’s teen fiction debut is a careful exploration of the rippling effects of tragedy. Alternating viewpoints give multiple sides of the same story, while flashbacks give the important contexts of the characters’ lives before the accident. Boston-savvy readers will know and appreciate all the local references. But the promising premise doesn’t quite deliver and is spoiled by a too-tidy conclusion.
Patient readers will fall for the characters; others will wonder if it’s worth the wait—even with lives on the line. (Fiction. 14-18)