A refreshingly diverse young adult thriller told in the fifty-four minutes after a student opens fire in a packed auditorium of his fellow students.
Marieke Nijkamp is the Vice President of We Need Diverse Books, a grassroots organization committed to diversifying the YA market. This is diversity defined as “…including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities” (weneeddiversebooks.org). Her commitment to diversity shows, and its my favorite aspect of the book. The students at Opportunity High School range in ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc., and its a wonderful change from the usual characters featured in mainstream YA fiction (and fiction in general).
But the book is so crammed with characters and rotating points of view that it often feels disjointed. The storyline between Claire and Chris takes place entirely outside of the school, and never really intersects with the other stories in a significant way. I think their characters could’ve been cut to make room for more plot development through the other POVs.
I felt the plot was too constrained by its narrative structure. Because the plot takes places over fifty-four minutes, most of the character’s backstories are explained in italicized, flashbacks, which didn’t work for me. They were too anecdotal for me to get a real sense of each character’s motivation, including the shooter’s. Speaking of motivation, I wasn’t clear on why Tyler’s hatred towards his sister and her girlfriend motivated him to shoot other people. It’s pretty clear that he’s after Autumn and Sylv from the get-go, but everyone else is just collateral damage. The insights into the killer’s home life and history weren’t enough to get a sense of what was driving him to shoot others.