Trigger warning – this book is about a school shooting
Sorry it’s taken me seven weeks to write this. Honestly, I still don’t know why I am. It’s not like you will ever get to read it.’
At sixteen, Sam Macmillan is supposed to be thinking about girls, homework and his upcoming application to music college, not picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed.
Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong.
What I thought
I was unsure what to think going into this book. In the UK school shootings just aren’t a thing and yet I keep seeing them on the news happening in America. I can’t understand how a country reaches that point, or how they allow it to continue. This book (written with Amnesty International UK) looks into a point of view that is so often ignored. The family of the shooter. You always see a lot on the news about how they are ‘mentally ill’ and a ‘loner’ (providing they are white. If they are black then the word terrorist is thrown around liberally), you hear from the families of the kids who died, and the kids who watched it happen. But you never see the family of the shooter, they have to keep their heads down while their whole world is thrown upside down. Their grief isn’t allowed. You can’t be sad that the person who walked into school with a gun and killed innocents has died. After all, it’s their fault. They planned for all of this. It doesn’t matter that they are your brother, son, sister, or daughter. They are the bad guy.
This book looks at how the brother of the shooter copes. How Sam has to rethink everything he thought he knew about Charlie, and grieve for his brother in silence. No one feels any sympathy for him and the minute people find out his name he’s shunned for his brother’s actions.
Being 16 and moving school is hard anyway, let alone having to move school because people are shouting at you in the corridor and none of the teachers can face you because of the actions of your brother. Even at his new school Sam is still shunned and does his best to make sure that people don’t connect him with his brother. Graffiti is written over their house in anger for what Charlie did, and with the movement happening to make sure that it can’t happen again and that guns are banned. So not only can he not get away from it at school, it’s everywhere he looks, at home and on the news. He’s stuck in the impossible position between his grief at the lose and his anger, not only that his brother did this but also that his brother left him in this impossible position.
What I loved were the moments when Sam was able to forget for a few minutes and just be a teenager again before he was hit with his grief, hearing people talk about it on the bus. It really shows the impact of grief and how there are moments when you forget and then you feel guilty for forgetting or for getting on with normal life.
This was really delicately written. You really feel for Sam and his position but can also understand other people’s anger, even if taking it out on Charlie’s family isn’t fair. There’s a moment where Sam sends a letters of sympathy/apology to the families of his brothers victims as a way of him trying to move on and it blows up in his face.
You get a sense of the countries anger and grief at what happened and how it becomes a movement into stopping guns so it can’t happen again. And inside all of this is a really personal story of how Sam learns to move on for his own sake and understand that he’ll never know why Charlie did it but that it doesn’t take away from his memories of his big brother.
Why I read it
My best mate got it at YALC last year and lent it to me. The idea really appealed to me of it being a different POV of something that we’re seeing in the news more and more.
This book made me cry, with the way that it was written and the way it dealt with big ‘issues’ and topics. And I’m not one to cry at books, they just don’t it me in the same way that something on the screen does.
Would I recommend? Yes, I would obviously warn them about the subject matter but I do think that this is something that people should read.
Popsugar: About death/grief, borrowed/given as a gift, problem facing society today.
YALC NEXT WEEK, YALC NEXT WEEK, YALC NEXT WEEK. 🙂 Can you tell I’m excited?
As always please let me know what you think about my review and if you have any recommendations for other books dealing with this difficult topic.
P.S The next book is ‘Wing Jones’ by Kerry Webber