The lives of a dozen diverse high school students and a teacher are examined in the months leading up to a Halloween school shooting.
Following setup pages in the frontmatter that reproduce an ominous exchange of text messages, seven narrators lead readers through the chaotic world of high school. Sophomore Danny is a loner, expelled from his arts-based high school and starting over at a new school. Seniors Brady and Donte are football players with hard lives coupled with the drive to win in the game and in life. Freshman Cadence is an upbeat realist trying to make friends at her new school. Senior Vivi is new to both the school and her upper-middle-class lifestyle. Freshman Drea is looking for friends and the strength to stop cutting herself. And Coach, the father figure to Brady and Donte, wants his football team to win and his players to become upstanding men. Leveen captures the Sturm und Drang of high school, but the overall story suffers; with seven narrators, some stories—such as Drea’s and Vivi’s—feel like afterthoughts. A critical revelation in the final act feels contrived, as one of the motivations for the shooting spree relates to a false charge of child pornography, and asking readers to believe the shooter’s parents were clueless is a hard sell.
Teens looking for tension and melodrama may find this to be an appealing read but only if they’re willing to overlook a few plot holes along the way. (Thriller. 14-18)