School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In her signature dramatic style, McDaniel explores the grief, anger, and upheaval caused by a school bombing. Complete with pep rallies and teen romances, Edison High School is ordinary and suburban. But when a bomb explodes just before morning classes start, students find their lives turning upside down. Through the perspectives of teens impacted by the blast, readers will quickly empathize with their confusion, despair, and determination. Characters represent a mix of the school's population, including a popular cheerleader, the student-council president, a goth girl, and an outsider. While characterizations can be broad, none of them slips into stereotypes. The characters speak and act in a believable manner save for some instances-e.g., one teen refers to his "Web avatar," which seems a bit dated. The shocking fate of two characters involved in a romantic relationship is revealed dramatically. The depiction of the explosion, panic, and glee felt by the main perpetrator while witnessing the explosion from a safe distance are realistically detailed. However, the exposure of the true perpetrators is a bit rushed and anticlimactic. Reluctant readers will be drawn to the novel's brevity, romance, and ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
McDaniel's (Reaching Through Time: Three Novellas) timely but predictable melodrama takes place in the months before and after a school bombing. The narrative switches perspectives among a group of high school seniors who represent different social strata but rarely rise above stereotypes. Popular student council president Morgan is dating the school's star athlete, but uncertain about their future. Morgan's best friend Kelli is fed up with the pressures of cheerleading and has grown distant as the result of a breakup and a secret pregnancy. Tattooed Roth has a less-than-stellar record and begins to flirt with Morgan, his longtime crush, despite his friend Liza's jealousy. Meanwhile, two outcasts referred to as "The Watchers" are plotting the bombing. Due to a previous prank, Roth becomes the prime suspect, despite saving Morgan's life, and a romance kindles between them as Morgan struggles to overcome PTSD-induced blindness. Readers don't get to spend much time with individual characters, due to McDaniel's mosaic structure, and the Watchers, presented as a disturbed student and his vulnerable accomplice, offer little exploration into the possible impetus for acts of mass violence. Ages 12-up. Agent: Meg Ruley, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (July)
From the Publisher
"In her signature style, McDaniel explores the grief, anger, and upheaval caused by a school bombing. . . . Readers will be drawn to the novel's brevity, romance, and ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter."SLJ
"Teens dealing with devastating illness and injury . . . Likable characters . . . an eye-catching cover . . . should draw plenty of romance readers."BooklistOnline.com
"As much a romance as it is the story of school violence, prejudice, and false accusations. . . . An appealing, easy read."VOYA
Children's Literature - Jody Little
When a bomb explodes at Edison High School, nine students die and many others are seriously harmed, including Student Body President, Morgan Frierson, who is left blind by the blast. Roth Rothman becomes the initial suspect after it is leaked that earlier in the year he set off fireworks at a football pep rally. Kelly Larson, keeping a secret about her pregnancy, loses her baby in the blast, and her former boyfriend is paralyzed. As personal stories unravel, so does the story of the real bombers, two students seeking revenge against the popular crowd. When Morgan struggles to regain her sight, she finds herself increasingly attracted to Roth, even though she loves her longtime boyfriend, Trent. As her memories of the day of the bombing begin to resurface, Morgan learns a shocking secret about who died in the blast. Only when she faces her memories and accepts her loss does her eyesight return. By alternating passages and chapters, author McDaniel weaves the main characters' personal situations into one storyline. A few subplots lack depth and detail, mainly the capture of the two bombers which feels incomplete and may leave readers disappointed. Overall, romance readers will enjoy the love story within a tragic situation, and will finish the book with a sense of hope. Reviewer: Jody Little
VOYA - Christine Fairman
Like any other school, Edison High School has its diverse share of students; athletes, popular kids, loners, and others navigate the hallways within a sensitive but time-tested ecosystem. The protagonist of the book is Morgan Frierson, senior class president who, with her athlete boyfriend, is half of the school's "Cutest Couple." On the other side of the spectrum is Stuart "Roth" Rothman, a brooding classmate whose defiant history has earned him the label of troublemaker. True to the standard romantic formula, Roth and Morgan discover that they share a spark, which both intrigues and disturbs Morgan. A few brief encounters with Roth suggest that there is something more to this guy than his tattoos and drab clothing, but she cannot envision him being part of her perfect life. Everything changes, however, when two troubled students at the school detonate a bomb that kills nine and blinds Morgan. One casualty is her boyfriend, who dies shielding her from the blast. Amazingly, Morgan survives, thanks to the heroic actions of Roth immediately after the tragedy. The story is as much a romance as it is the story of school violence, prejudice, and false accusations that swirl around Roth after the event. Sexual references are minimal and it does not contain questionable language. True romantics will be disappointed at the abrupt ending, and at the fact that Morgan and Roth are surprisingly restrained in spite of their very obvious attraction to one another. Nevertheless, most fans of romantic drama will find this an appealing, easy read. Reviewer: Christine Fairman
Read an Excerpt
Morgan Frierson looked across the football field, at stands filled with Edison students, all stomping and cheering for the start of the pep rally. A frenzied exhibition of school spirit would guarantee that Edison’s principal and staff would authorize another such rally. And who didn’t want to cut out of last period thirty minutes early? Morgan knew some kids were already melting away into the Michigan afternoon, ditching school and the rally, but most were hanging around in the stands.
She stood at the mouth of the short tunnel leading from the locker room, the football team stamping behind her, waiting for Principal Simmons to finish his comments on the makeshift stage in the middle of the field. The marching band had already played and gone through a few formations, and now its members were standing at the foot of the stage, sweating in the hot sun. Morgan fidgeted impatiently, and when she felt the brush of lips on the back of her neck, she jumped a foot.
“Whoa, babe! It’s a kiss, not a knife,” she heard her boyfriend, Trent Caparella, say.
Behind them, a few of the players made smacking sounds and off-color remarks.
Trent turned, saying good-naturedly, “Knock it off, dirtbags.”
Morgan spun to face Trent. “You startled me.”
Trent was a soccer player, but during football season Coach used Trent’s kicking leg to add necessary extra points and field goals to the scoreboard. “Nervous, Madam President?”
They were seniors and Morgan had been elected student council president. Today was her first public speech to the student body. “Nervous? How could I be? I just love talking to a thousand kids who are going to ignore me.”
“Never happen. When they see you coming, they’ll bow.”
“Very funny.” Morgan chewed her bottom lip, heard her name from the principal’s mike. She took a deep breath. “Here I go.” She jogged onto the field, looking at the ground so she wouldn’t trip. Catcalls and cheers erupted from the stands. She glanced up to see her best friend, Kelli, and a whole squad of cheerleaders waving at her. The front rows of the stands were packed with her fellow seniors, benches of honor at every pep rally, off-limits to the other kids.
Morgan trotted up the platform stairs, her hair bobbing on her shoulders, and went to the mike. “Seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen!” The bleachers yipped with whistles and stomping. Each class attempted to outscreech the others. Morgan quickly decided to dump her prepared remarks about school spirit. “Here they are!” she shouted. “Your Fighting Eagles!”
The football team, dressed in bright blue-and-white uniforms, jogged out onto the field, and the students did their cheering duty, led by the cheerleading squad. Morgan kept her eyes on Trent. He was gorgeous: tall, blond, broad-shouldered, with bulging leg muscles from years of playing soccer. She felt so lucky to be his girl. Ever since their freshman year, when they’d first set eyes on each other, they’d been a couple--“the Jock and the Princess, a Disney movie in living color.” That was what Kelli had always said about them. Morgan couldn’t deny she agreed with her friend’s analysis. She and Trent were a perfect couple; everyone said so. He was one of the reasons she’d been elected student council president, and they the Most Popular Twosome for the yearbook. But she’d earned Most Likely to Succeed and become a Merit Scholar on her own. No denying she was driven to earn high grades and college scholarships. Trent had already been offered athletic scholarships from top universities. They would be going their separate ways after graduation. That was hard for Morgan--knowing that this was their last year together before their lives changed forever.
The team jogged around the football field. Cheers. Kelli and the cheerleading squad flashed pom-poms, made human pyramids, executed precise tumbling routines. More cheers from the bleachers. The band struck up the school song and air horns sounded out of nowhere. The principal beamed toward the stands. Morgan felt a deep stirring of school spirit and teared up. For a moment, her gaze connected with Trent’s. He blew her a kiss.
And then, without warning, in front of the goalpost at the east end of the field, all hell broke loose.