The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker

320p. ebook available. St. Martin's Griffin. Sept. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250088864.
Gr 8 Up—This fast-paced work features a grab bag of teen fiction stock characters. Luke recently moved from the big city to a new high school in small-town Tennessee. Grant Parker is the "big man on campus." Grant's girlfriend, a pretty cheerleader named Penny, and Delilah, a cynical but intriguing neighbor girl, are both drawn to Luke right away. A bevy of suspicious adults waste no time before pegging Luke, the son of a local Baptist pastor, as a troublemaking outsider. Following minimal buildup, Grant comes after Luke at the garage where he works. The protagonist dodges him, and Grant falls into the grease pit, becoming comatose. Things take a surprising turn when Luke, rather than being blamed for the accident, is hailed as a hero. The newcomer is offered Grant's seat at the jocks' table, his position as student council president, and, incredibly, sex with Penny. Predictably, our former outcast abuses his newfound power, angering Delilah and straining his relationships with the dorky kids who initially accepted him. After a drunken homecoming night revelation, Luke must face what he's become. Luke sees himself as a gentleman but slut-shames, dismisses, or sexually pressures both love interests. He ultimately ends up with the cooler and smarter of the two. It's hard to imagine a group of real teenagers responding to a classmate's maiming in such a uniformly unlikely fashion. Spears has created a true antihero who may appeal to readers looking for a particular brand of edginess.
VERDICT The interest inherent in love triangles, high-stakes drama, and the familiar fish-out-of-water premise may outweigh the aspects of this book that are dated, sensationalistic, and implausible.

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