People Kill People

448p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. Sept. 2018. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781481442930.
Gr 10 Up—This novel-in-verse illuminates the potentially powerful and dangerous allure of guns but ultimately lets the message overpower the story. Set in Tucson, AZ, Hopkins's latest follows six teens who have all been witness to or victim of violence in their lives. Over the course of several days, their relationships are tested and ideologies clash. Readers are warned that someone will shoot a gun and someone will die, and as tensions build, it becomes clearer that each character has an incentive for pulling the trigger. Although this novel's themes are timely, the story often comes off as sensationalized, and its characters' traumatic experiences seem forced rather than organic. The alternating verse and second person prose narrative, which switches focus among the six protagonists, makes connecting with each individual especially challenging. Were it not for direct references to age, readers might assume they were in their 20s or 30s by the way they act and speak. This characterization, combined with the story's difficult subject matter—including physical and sexual violence, explicit language, drug use, and racially motivated hatred—makes this novel best suited for a new adult audience. Hopkins has a talent for creating tension and apprehension, and the dramatic ending will no doubt leave readers talking.
VERDICT Sure to be a divisive novel, both for its storytelling and themes, this offering spotlights critical social issues but misses the mark on its delivery.

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