Thoughts & Prayers

HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2020. 448p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062962249.
Gr 9 Up–A year after a school shooting, three teens share their stories. Claire fled Hickory, NC, with her brother for Minnesota, where she starts at a new school and tries to find her way back to normalcy through new friendships forged at the skate park. When she discovers a friend’s frightening drawings, Claire, angry that no one recognized the warning signs at her old school, panics and then learns to forgive. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Eleanor (Claire’s former best friend) wore a homemade anti-gun T-shirt to school. Not an intentional activist, she garnered a loyal following nonetheless as well as unwanted attention from gun-toting right-wingers. When threats escalate just as she’s trying to withdraw from the spotlight and focus on basketball, she must decide how to find her voice and keep her sanity. Finally, readers meet Brezzen as he searches for the strength to start back at school after a long time at home, immersed in the world of Wizards and Warriors, a Dungeons and Dragons–esque role-playing game that serves both as a pastime and a metaphor for fighting the demons of the shooting. This novel is never gratuitous. The shooting itself is barely referenced, and the shooter, appropriately, not at all. Though there are signs of hope, the characters’ recovery is far from over by the book’s end, which rings authentically true. Characters’ appearances and backgrounds are largely not described.
VERDICT Bliss offers three separate meditations on the ways in which a horrific event can turn a life upside down.

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