FICTION

Accidental

Bloomsbury. Jul. 2020. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781547603589.
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Gr 9 Up–Johanna has lived with her grandparents since her mother died in a car accident when she was a toddler. Happy with her best friends, Gabby and Leah, and with a growing mutual attraction with newcomer Milo, Johanna leads the life of a typical teenager. Then the father who abandoned her long ago returns and reveals the shattering truth: When she was only three, Johanna came across a gun and accidentally killed her mother. Furious with the lie and devastated by her role in her mother’s death, Johanna isn’t prepared for the situation to get worse; then Gabby blurts out the story at school. Students on both sides of the gun safety issue clash, and when Johanna plans to paint a mural at school highlighting gun control, events and feelings spiral further out of hand. Ever-patient Milo struggles with Johanna’s ferocious anger and grief, while Johanna must face hard truths about her father and begin a journey with her grandparents that could lead to healing. Richards deftly explores the myriad emotional struggles after an accidental gun death. Johanna is a compelling and unique character, and readers will empathize with the self-hatred she experiences. The growing relationship with Milo is sweetly evoked, and tempers the sobering themes. And while all the characters are richly delineated, the author stays true to the ravaged heart and soul of Johanna. In her impassioned voice, gun safety issues and statistics truly resonate.
VERDICT Tragic, moving and genuine, this is a must for middle school and high school collections and should prove highly popular.

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