When it comes to school shootings, sympathies generally turn to the victims' families. What about the shooter's family, though, that's just as blindsided by what happened as the victims? This book focuses on the aftermath of a shooting from the point-of-view of the shooter's sister and does a wonderful job showing the family's struggle.
Alys's brother Luke brought a gun to school and killed fifteen people. She survives, but carries the guilt of what her brother did and her inability to see it coming or stop him from hurting people. While she struggles with the loss of her brother and the fact that he's been labeled a monster, she finds that she has no one to turn to given that her boyfriend's sister is a victim and her best friend can't wrap her mind around the whole situation. Given that Luke killed himself at the end of the shooting, the town has no one to blame except for Alys and her family, a fact that takes its toll on everyone in her house. Alys is left wondering whether or not they have a right to carry on as usual given what happened - what right to they have to be happy.
This is a very powerful novel, especially given the fact that in the face of a crisis, people look for someone to blame. If a child comes out wrong or does something horrible, the first person to blame is the parent because they raised this person and had the ultimate influence over his life. While that seems like the easy answer, the truth can easily be that they were just as oblivious to the person's reality as the rest of the world. They're carrying their own guilt over what happened and accusations and attacks don't make things easier for them. Alys also struggled with reconciling her brother with this "monster" from the shooting. She has all of these wonderful memories of their time together that it's hard to think of him as a murderer, but is it wrong to still love a killer? Her guilt manifests in the form of hallucinations of her brother and a victim she might have had a chance to save. She struggles to confront this guilt and regain control of her life because the reality is that her brother was the killer, not her.
This book is beautifully written and does a wonderful job bringing the family's struggle into focus. We seem to forget that the family is suffering and this book is very eye-opening without making their pain any more important than those of the victims. It's very balanced with a good message.