Scientifically induced compassion confuses a monster—and his potential target.
Rem Braithwaite was part of an exclusive quintet, the Boreal Five. Rem (gay artist), Callie (outspoken liberal), Lydia (straight-laced wallflower), Tor (golden-boy athlete), and Pete (likable goofball) were together a gilded exemplar of unified high school demographic diversity (even if Indian Callie is the only nonwhite member). When reclusive, video-gaming outsider Franklin Kettle fatally shoots Pete in class, their innocuous Minnesota lives are upended. Now, a year later, Rem’s scientist mother is about to implant a controversial violence-taming capsule in Franklin’s brain. When Rem’s mother sends him to talk with a pre- and post-surgery Franklin as part of her research, the tight-knit Midwestern inoffensiveness unravels. Flashbacks reveal the Five’s parts in ostracizing Franklin, while in the present day, Rem sneaks lascivious visits with closeted Tor (who’s also Lydia’s boyfriend), potentially mended Franklin appeals sexually to Rem, and Rem’s mother could be lying about the questionable foundation for her research. Violence unfurls again when a bootleg version of Franklin’s favorite game surfaces with the Boreal Five as the targets. A troubled boy-boy romance (times two!), brewing tragedy, nods to Gothic greats (Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and pointed commentary are here, orchestrated deftly in a successful sophomore outing for Floreen.
Chords of Frankenstein and Carrie harmonize in this emboldened critique of guns, bullying, and violence. (Science fiction. 14-18)