I have to be honest, I’m really angry at this book for more reasons than one, and it’s not for the intended reasons that I should be angry at the book.
I’m angry about how one-dimensional, prejudiced, and assuming this book comes across with respect to its difficult subject matter. I’m angry at how poorly written this book was and that it seemed to lecture and talk down to its audience in an unrealistic way on the respective subject. If this was intended to be an inspirational journey of a young woman who did a courageous thing and helped a troubled boy in the measure of things, it failed miserably. I’m sorry, but it just failed completely with its pandering, unsubtle tones and meandering focus.
Where do I even begin?
Let me make a disclaimer on this review before I go too much further. I read a lot of inspirational fiction. So I know how some authors have different ways of presenting a tough subject matter, and I know there are certain methods that the authors employ to convey hope in the face of overwhelming odds. But I never like books that try to force readers what to think about a tough subject matter through the dialogue or respective situations. There’s a difference between telling and showing – you want to show the complexities of the people who may find themselves facing incredible odds or conflicts. I do not like books that portray characters in singular dimensions, as being wholly good or evil, as being right or wrong – with no middle between. People are complex characters, with complex thoughts about our moralities and the things that happen to and around us.
I felt that Jack Chaucer’s take on a school shooting happening around a young protagonist was manipulative and trite to say the least. And I emphasize that it was also very prejudiced in its portrayal in parts. I’ll explain why shortly.
Let’s start with the roots of the story – Nikki is a young woman who has a vision from angels that one of her former classmates, who has fallen in with the wrong company, is going to participate in a school shooting in which she and others may end up dead. This vision shakes her and she becomes determined to set herself on a mission to change this boy from the path he’s set on to avoid the event all together.
And get this: the angels evoked are supposedly taken from the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
I probably should’ve had every warning bell ringing inside my head when I came across those revelations because, number one: directly invoking the memories/references of people who died in a horrible, real tragedy in a fictional account in such a way as this always bothers me. I think more often than not, it tends to be insensitive, but I was willing to give this book the benefit of the doubt and wanted to see if it would take it in a direction that was meaningful, even inspirational.
This did not happen. This was such a Mary Sue-ish account of a “chosen one” character who made it her mission to change a boy who presumably hung around the wrong crowd because of another character’s presumed “evilness,” especially given (and cited multiple times) on the basis of his name.
WTF? Just because the character shares a common name with Lee Harvey Oswald does NOT make him prone to shoot up people in a school and be the “end all, beat all” expression of a character. If the author was going symbolic transgression here, it was a complete failure. It just ended up being this one-dimensional account rooted in prejudice – with multiple people in multiple situations championing and re-emphasizing that prejudice, from the adults to other peers.
This whole narrative had not one lick of subtle storybuilding – it was lecture after lecture of so called “bad” elements whether it was suggestive lyrics in a song, an all encompassing portrayal of the intentions of a character to kill people, with pretty much every adult acting like they didn’t have two cents worth to them (the stupidity and blanketness of the adults revolted me), and Nikki being the so called person whose “visions” are the end-all/beat all compass of “rightness” that had not a lick of true dimension to it. And then directly invoking Nikki in an interview with Anderson Cooper to twist the knife further in the sensationalistic, one dimensional portrayal?
I could not with this. It made me so angry to see such a heavy topic with so much significance treated in such a juvenile, force-fed manner. There are other books that treat the subject o school shootings/massacres/tragedies with so much more depth, weight, and resonance than this book could EVER touch, and actually allow you to think on the matter and yet at the same time be inspired at the shown resilience and faith that one may have when in such circumstances.
I cannot recommend this at all.
Overall score: 0.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.