Thoughts & Prayers : A Novel in Three Parts
by Bliss, Bryan

"Three high school students attempt to repair their lives after a school shooting"-

*Starred Review* What happens to survivors of a school shooting? It's a vexing question and one that Bliss seeks to answer in this richly realized novel, which is divided into three parts, each focusing on a different survivor of the same shooting. In Part 1, it's Claire, who was so deeply traumatized by the experience that she and her older brother have moved from their small North Carolina town to Minnesota, hoping to leave the trauma behind only to discover that it has come with them. In Part 2, it's Eleanor, who has worn a hand-lettered shirt to school that says "Fuck Guns," an act that has attracted national attention and made her a pariah in her gun-crazy town. And in Part 3, it's Brendan, who has fearfully returned to school after a year's absence during which time he has obsessively played Wizards and Warriors with his therapist, a game that has taken over his life. The considerable length of this book-each part is nearly long enough to have been published as a standalone novel-affords Bliss more than ample room for plot and character development, at both of which he excels. The theme, of course, is a powerful one, and it is passionately and successfully presented in this inarguably important book, which offers no glib answers but invites serious thought and discussion. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Three high school students cope with the aftermath of a school shooting. About one year ago, three students cowered together under a staircase during a mass shooting in their school. Now, each one is attempting to move on with life in their own way. Claire has fled to another state and tried to forget, Eleanor rages against the establishment, and Brezzen has retreated into the escapist fantasy of a Dungeons and Dragons-like game. This book shines in certain areas while stumbling in others. The characters are real and likable, and their trauma is honest and raw. Bliss raises unanswerable questions that will allow teenage readers room to reflect and debate. He offers no trite solutions yet does not feign political neutrality. An element of the story having to do with zero-tolerance rhetoric that promotes criminalizing and expelling troubled kids instead of helping them may not be sufficiently contextualized for some readers. And though the characters and their trauma feel real, the depictions of their respective subcultures of skateboarding, b asketball, and tabletop role-playing have the distinct flavor of an adult trying too hard to be hip. Ultimately, the book may leave some readers wanting a stronger thesis or at least a conclusive end to the kids' stories. But as in trauma and life, sometimes there is no neat ending. Characters default to White. An affecting story of trauma and healing. (Fiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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