Carolrhoda. Sept. 2021. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541599116.
Gr 5 Up–Queensland, VA, a town devastated by a mass school shooting, is perhaps the toughest place tween Lucy Rothman can ever imagine moving, especially as a new member of the affected seventh grade class. Though her mother obsessively redecorates, Lucy’s new room, which belonged to one of the victims, feels weighed down by memories. Lucy is enveloped by death; her parents wanted a fresh start after losing her younger brother to a heart condition. Wrecked, alone, and with aloof parents, Lucy finds solace in math and logic. A friendly math teacher and his improv class prove instrumental as she works to stitch her classmates, herself, and her family together again. Isler’s novel provides a look at the turmoil that is felt years after a tragedy. Her original yet devastatingly plausible scenario will entice tween readers, who will connect with the authentic narrator. Lucy’s thoughts, conversations, and thought-provoking math equations offer an emotional glimpse into the disrupted lives of the victims. Some readers will relate to Lucy’s inaccessible parents and further discover ideas on mending such relationships. Despite the weight of the premise, the book is accessible, and there are even occasional chuckles and hints at young romance. Short chapters and a well-paced plot will keep tweens reading and also create a day-by-day approach to the challenging topic. The ending feels simplistic and perhaps a bit too easily resolved but provides a hopeful outlook.
VERDICT Isler nose-dives into the perhaps taboo topic of school shootings, yet breathes healing, change, and math into the emotional catharsis.

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