What a book.
This is one of those books that I’m going to shove in every single person’s face because YOU HAVE TO READ IT. It’s a book that, like I Am Thunder, is so relevant to today’s world that everybody should read it. It’s completely heartbreaking, and I’m not lying when I say that I had a box tissues next to me, but I absolutely loved it.
What it’s About
Three years ago, Lee’s best friend, Sarah, was killed in the Virgil County High School mass shooting. Three years since Sarah died proclaiming her faith – only, she didn’t, and only Lee and one other survivor – Kelley – knows the truth about what happened. Now, after Sarah’s parents announce writing a book about their martyr daughter, Lee needs to set the record straight before the truth graduates with her. But Sarah’s story is important to a lot of people and their faith, and after running Kelley and her family out of town, they now set their sights on Lee, who is not only still struggling with the loss of her best friend, but also being the target of so much animosity in her town.
The Characters & Relationships
One thing that I genuinely can’t believe is how brilliant Kody Keplinger’s characters are. They are so unbelievably realistic, so flawed, that sometimes I actually had to remind myself that this book is fictional. Even the characters who were killed in the shooting, those who we’d never actually met, were so three dimensional that I mourned them. The love that their peers held for them, the little snippets of memories…it’s just so moving.
While this goes for all of the victims, it’s obviously more focused on Sarah, as she was Lee’s best friend. Lee’s love for Sarah is stuff that we can only dream of having; there was one quote about how Sarah didn’t have to die a martyr for her to be Lee’s hero that had me bawling. Everything that Lee does reminds her of Sarah, and it’s so heartbreaking that I’m tearing up just writing about it.
I also loved how Kody didn’t make all her characters be strong, speech-making activists; obviously there’s nothing wrong with that, but I appreciated the vulnerability, the different coping mechanisms shown. Everyone deals with things differently, whether that be through not talking about it, excessive drinking, or religion. Some people forgive, while others hold onto their anger.
While this book is predominately through Lee’s eyes, we do also get to read all six of the survivors’ letters, stating the truth from their point of view, which I loved, because it just highlights how the same event can be perceived differently by different people.
As well as the letters, we also get little snippets of memories focusing on each of the victims, whether they be students or teachers. And while you would expect all of the dead to be portrayed as perfect, they aren’t; none of them are put up on pedestals, and the survivors straight up say if they acted like arseholes at some point. Just because they didn’t deserve to die doesn’t mean that they weren’t awful people at some point or other in their life.
I honestly can’t recommend this book enough. I cried on page 15, and I cried on and off for the rest of the book. There wasn’t one time I sat down to read it that I didn’t cry; it’s so incredibly moving.
I genuinely haven’t mourned a fictional character as much as I mourn Sarah since Sam Cortland from Throne of Glass. Which is mental, considering I only ever got glimpses of Sarah through Lee after she’d gone, but that’s how brilliant Kody is.
This is my first book by her, but it definitely won’t be my last. I might just need to wait until my emotions have recovered from this book before I read any more of her books, though.
*I received a free copy of this book via the publisher – this by no means affected my review*