Published July 7, 2020
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Johanna has had more than enough trauma in her life. She lost her mom in a car accident, and her father went AWOL when Johanna was just a baby. At sixteen, life is steady, boring . . . maybe even stifling, since she’s being raised by her grandparents who never talk about their daughter, her mother Mandy.
Then he comes back: Robert Newsome, Johanna’s father, bringing memories and pictures of Mandy. But that’s not all he shares. A tragic car accident didn’t kill Mandy–it was Johanna, who at two years old, accidentally shot her own mother with an unsecured gun.
Now Johanna has to sort through it all–the return of her absentee father, her grandparents’ lies, her part in her mother’s death. But no one, neither her loyal best friends nor her sweet new boyfriend, can help her forgive them. Most of all, can she ever find a way to forgive herself?
In a searing, ultimately uplifting story, debut author Alex Richards tackles a different side of the important issue that has galvanized teens across our country.
I did not anticipate how hard it would be to read a book like this while my stress level is already pretty high.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, though. Gun violence, and particularly a story about a toddler accidentally killing her mom, would always be a tough read. Johanna was two and a half when this happened. I have a child who’s two and a half right now, too, so it was hard to think about what it would be like for her to go through something like that, and then not have her mom there to comfort her. Ever again.
So yeah, ACCIDENTAL is a super emotional book. I liked Johanna a lot, though, and really identified with a lot of her emotions, from her frustration with her grandparents’ avoidance to her conflicting feelings about her dad, to her frustration with her best friend.
Packed on top of all of those things is Johanna’s first romantic experience. I thought the author did an amazing job balancing all the relationships and plot elements together, keeping them present but not letting them drown each other out or overwhelm the reader.
All in all, I think it’s really great to see a young adult book that focuses on this kind of gun violence and trauma. I think readers who enjoy books about characters facing down their trauma, such as WHAT UNBREAKABLE LOOKS LIKE, will enjoy ACCIDENTAL.
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Gabby’s dad is Jamaican. Leah is Jewish and bisexual. (Both are Johanna’s best friends.) Johanna has been adopted and raised by her grandparents.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used pretty frequently. Also some crude comments.
Kissing between boy and girl. One scene briefly describes them removing clothes, implying and then later stating they’ve had sex. Brief references to a girl having had sex with a girl.
Johanna’s grandparents are faithful church attenders and expect Johanna to go with them. After she learns about the true cause of her mother’s death, Johanna only feels judged by God, and it ultimately results in her withdrawing from church.
Her dad also references a positive relationship with God through his pastor and church as part of his recovery from drug addiction. Johanna questions that relationship later when it appears to lead him to do hurtful things.
Violent Content – Trigger Warning for Bullying and Gun Violence
Descriptions of an accidental shooting and Johanna’s imaginings of what might have happened.
Kids at school say cruel things to her. In one instance, two boys demand that a teacher search Johanna’s bag “just in case” she’s carrying a gun. A doctored photo of Johanna shooting her mother appears online and at school.
One man punches another man in the face.
Johanna takes Xanax from someone else’s prescription. At a dinner party with her friend’s family, she gets drunk. She learns that her father became a drug addict in prison, and that he used to sell pot.
Note: I received a free copy of ACCIDENTAL in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog.