The Shape of Thunder

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2021. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062956675.
Gr 4-8–Twelve-year-old Cora’s older sister, Mabel, was killed in a school shooting; Cora’s best friend Quinn’s older brother was the shooter. Told in alternating perspectives, this novel chronicles Cora and Quinn’s desperate attempt to unlock the secret of time travel and undo the event that shattered their friendship. The novel confronts readers with devastating questions about school shootings, access to firearms, Islamophobia, and the radicalization of white teenage boys via web forums. Quinn, who is white, is plagued with persistent guilt at the signs she noticed, like Parker calling her a “stupid female” and Cora’s father a “nasty foreigner.” Cora, whose father is a Lebanese immigrant, wants to learn more about her heritage but fears the way that being Muslim made Mabel a target. Warga’s characters are full, complex figures who deal with Quiz Bowl practice and first crushes alongside therapy sessions and panic attacks during lockdown drills. This sensitive title holds space for the grief and pain of all of the characters, whether they are related to the shooter or his victims.
VERDICT With taut pacing, nuanced characters, and compassionate depictions of grief and trauma, Warga’s novel is both timely and transcendent; a must-purchase for all collections.

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