by Lisa Graff
First sentence: “When we were real little kids, Mom used to take Aaron and Doug and me to Sal’s Pizzeria for dinner almost every Tuesday, which is when they had their Family Night Special.”
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Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at work.
Release date: May 26, 2015
Content: There’s some bullying, and some tough subjects and a couple of instances of mild swearing. It’ll be in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore, though I would hesitate giving it to the younger end of that spectrum.
Eight months ago, Trent was the cause of a fatal accident. He hit a hockey puck into the chest of one of his friends, who then died. Not really from the hockey puck: his friends had a heart condition that no one knew about, and that’s what caused the death. But Trent is convinced that it’s his fault. And he feels like everyone — well his father, his brothers, and his former friends — blames him for what happened.
Now, on the first day of sixth grade, Trent is completely depressed. Until the “weird” girl, Fallon, decides that they need to be friends. Fallon’s the one everyone shuns, mostly because she has a scar down her face. Everyone asks how it happened, but she keeps the true story close, choosing instead to make up ones. Over the fall, Fallon and Trent deal with his grief, guilt, and anger, as he tries to make life work.
A lot of books deal with grief from dead or sick parents, or dead or sick siblings. But the idea that a kid could be the catalyst for a friend’s death hits home and deep. I thought Graff captured those emotions perfectly, from Trent’s self-loathing to his feelings like everyone hated him. And because we saw the rest of the world through Trent’s eyes, I could tell which adults were reaching out (his homeroom teacher, eventually) and which adults just needed a good smack (his father). The longer Trent’s self loathing went on, the more I was afraid that Graff wouldn’t be able to give Trent a good resolution. But, in so many ways, she did. I was thoroughly satisfied with Trent’s arc, and with the way things weren’t neatly tied up in a bow.