Kelley Armstrong creates wonderfully strong female characters, has an unerring ear for realistic dialogue, and is great at romance. I’m happy to see this latest foray into the young adult market because she is also impressively good at channeling the way teens think and behave.
Skye Gilchrist is 16, and about to begin school in her old hometown again, which she is dreading. Three years earlier, Skye’s older brother Luka was killed in a high school shooting. Four kids died and ten were injured. Hundreds suffered from PTSD afterwards. The horrible truth for Skye, however, is that Luka wasn’t a “victim”; he was one of the shooters. Meanwhile, Jesse Mandal, just a “pal” at first until hormones kicked in for both of them, lost his older brother Jamil, who was a victim. Their situation immediately became awkward at best. But moot as well: two days after the shooting, Skye’s grandmother came to take her mom and her away from the town, the memories, and the surprising onset of bullying toward Skye.
Recently, her grandmother had a serious stroke and her mom sunk deeper into depression, and Skye had no choice but to return to Riverside, the scene of the crime, to live with her Aunt Mae. Mae councils her to “buck up” but she has no idea what Skye faces when she returns. Skye doesn’t just get the cold shoulder. She is hated because of her brother. She receives anonymous notes saying she should leave, and worse. Someone even forwards videos of the dead kids to her.
She only has a few people on her side. One is Chris Landry, cousin of one of the dead victims. Another is Tiffany Gold, former girlfriend of one of the shooters. And Jesse is at the school too. At first, they avoid each other, but before long, they clear up their miscommunications, and Jesse becomes Skye’s staunchest defender. Skye will need all the support she can get. On the one hand, someone wants her to question the accounts of what happened that day, to find out what really happened. And on the other, someone clearly wants her either to go insane, or to die – preferably both.
Evaluation: I can’t think of any book by Kelley Armstrong I haven’t really liked. This suspenseful book is a standalone, so if you are looking for an introduction to her writing, it just might fill the bill. It is timely, riveting, and offers an unusual perspective on what has become a depressingly common occurrence.
Published in the U.S. by Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House, 2018