Tag Archives: gun violence

Review: How We Ricochet by Faith Gardner

How We Ricochet by Faith Gardner

How We Ricochet
Faith Gardner
Published May 24, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About How We Ricochet

Intimate, impactful, and incisive, this newest novel from Faith Gardner, critically acclaimed author of GIRL ON THE LINE, is an unflinching look into the devastating consequences of a mass shooting for one girl and her close-knit family, for readers of THIS IS HOW IT ENDS and ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES.

It seems sometimes a charade that we continue celebrating in the face of relentless tragedy.

How dare we? But then . . . what else is there to do?

Betty’s mom needed new pants for her job.

That was why Betty was at the mall with her mom and sister when the shooting started.

Afterward, nothing is the same.

There are no easy answers to be found, and Betty’s search for them leads her to Michael, the brother of the shooter. But this path only shows Betty one thing: that everything she thought she knew—about herself, about the world around her—can change in a heartbeat.

A moving, powerful journey of life after tragedy, HOW WE RICOCHET is an unflinching and necessary story for our time that will resonate with readers everywhere.

My Review

The whole book is told from Betty’s point-of-view. I liked that, and I truly loved the writing, so I think that was great. I did honestly wonder what the story would have been like if it had been divided between Michael and Betty’s points-of-view.

This is one of those books where there’s a LOT going on. Betty, her mom, and her sister are recovering from the experience of the mall shooting. The girls have a difficult relationship with their dad, who has been absent from their lives for ten years besides occasional phone calls and random gifts in the mail. Betty is trying to break into the fashion industry as a copy writer, something she isn’t sure she has a real passion for anymore. Her sister is spiraling into a bad place, and Betty doesn’t know how to help her. Her mom has leapt into a new identity as an activist for gun safety, leaving Betty feeling super isolated.

And then, of course, there’s her getting to know Michael, the brother of the shooter. There’s the way they dance around one another’s grief. The way they process their losses side by side, comforting each other without speaking about it. I loved the way their relationship unfolded. I liked that they were safe harbors for one another in the storm.


On the whole, I found this to be a deeply moving story with great writing and heartfelt relationships. This is the first book by Faith Gardner that I’ve ever read, but I am super interested in her other books now, too.

The cover copy compares this story to a book called THIS IS HOW IT ENDS, but I wonder if they meant THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp? That second book is a story about the unfolding of a school shooting, which is why I wondered about that.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Betty and another character identify as pansexual. One of her close friends is gay. Betty experiences some symptoms of PTSD after being near a shooting involving her mom and sister. Her sister also experiences debilitating PTSD symptoms.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Betty was next door during a shooting in a store where her mother and sister were. She heard the shots but didn’t see it happen. Her mom briefly describes what she witnessed.

Drug Content
Betty’s sister takes medication for panic attacks. She and Betty and others drink alcohol.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of HOW WE RICOCHET in exchange for my honest review.

Review: MacKenzie’s Last Run by Gayle Rosengren

MacKenzie’s Last Run
Gayle Rosengren
HenschelHaus Publishing
Published September 1, 2022

Amazon | Goodreads

About MacKenzie’s Last Run

Thirteen-year-old MacKenzie (Mac) Lawrence secretly blames himself for his father’s death in a mall shooting. In his grief and guilt, he has pulled away from everyone, even his twin sister Tessa. When their mother announces her plans to remarry barely two years after Dad’s death Mac is furious and runs away in an attempt to force her to break off the engagement.

Unfortunately, nothing goes as Mac plans. He ends up seriously injured, miles from home, unable to reach out for help, while clues he inadvertently left behind suggest he’s been kidnapped—possibly by Mom’s fiancé—and set his twin sister Tessa on a desperate search to find him. But she’d better hurry, because the clock is ticking, and Mac is running out of time.

My Review

The first thing I saw as I opened MACKENZIE’S LAST RUN to read it was the article from the paper reporting on his disappearance and police believed he was a victim of kidnapping. I thought it was an interesting choice from a writing perspective to start with that. So that, as a reader, I was kind of anticipating that event at some point. I worried that it would make the story anticlimactic.

But as I read, I found myself only more deeply hooked into what would happen to Mac and whether Tessa would be able to find him before it was too late.

I read the book in one sitting. I kept reading one more chapter all the way until the end, when I finally felt I could breathe again.

For me, not only could I not put the book down, but the story pulled me in despite its beginning. To overcome a reveal like that on the first page or use it in such a clever way made me feel even more like this book was worth reading.

I loved the way memories about Mac and Tessa’s dad were dropped in to critical moments in the story, and the way Mac’s adventure helped him face some of the things he’d been, well, running from. Both Tessa’s and Mac’s characters drew me in and had me rooting for them. Each chapter is told from Tessa’s or Mac’s point of view. I loved the balance that brought to the story and the exploration of their relationship as twins who’d lost their dad.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this book, and I hope the author writes lots more.

Content Notes for MacKenzie’s Last Run

Content warning for brief descriptions of gun violence. Some descriptions of injuries from a knife and a fall.

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Mac and Tessa are twins whose father was killed in a grocery store shooting.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Tessa’s mom makes her and her brother attend church with her. She says Mac “needs it.” Tessa is okay with church, but doesn’t seem to feel much of a personal connection to faith. In one scene she tries to pray for Mac, but worries she’s doing it wrong because she forgot to say, “Amen,” so she starts over.

Violent Content
Some description of the shooting that killed the twins’ dad.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of MACKENZIE’S LAST RUN in exchange for my honest review.

Review: We Can Be Heroes by Kyrie McCauley

We Can Be Heroes
Kyrie McCauley
Katherine Tegen Books
Published September 7, 2021

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About We Can Be Heroes

“Welcome to Bell, proud home of Bell Firearms for two hundred years, and where five months ago, the teen heir to the Bell fortune took his father’s guns to school and killed his ex-girlfriend, Cassandra Queen.” —WE CAN BE HEROES PODCAST

Beck and Vivian never could stand each other, but they always tried their best for their mutual friend, Cassie. After the town moves on from Cassie’s murder too fast, Beck and Vivian finally find common ground: vengeance. They memorialize Cassie by secretly painting murals of her around town, a message to the world that Cassie won’t be forgotten. But Beck and Vivian are keeping secrets, like the third passenger riding in Beck’s VW bus with them—Cassie’s ghost.

When their murals catch the attention of a podcaster covering Cassie’s case, they become the catalyst for a debate that Bell Firearms can no longer ignore. With law enforcement closing in on them, Beck and Vivian hurry to give Cassie the closure she needs—by delivering justice to those responsible for her death.

Kyrie McCauley, author of If These Wings Could Fly, delivers a powerful contemporary YA novel about a trio of girls fighting for each other in the aftermath of a school shooting and the lasting bonds of friendship. Perfect for fans of Laura Ruby and Mindy McGinnis.

My Review

This. Book. Just wow. There are a couple scenes toward the end in particular (which I won’t spoil) but which absolutely wrecked me. The relationships between the characters are so incredibly well done. The friendships between the girls. The relationship between Beck and her gentle, not to be pushed around, strong but silent type grandfather. He’s my favorite literary grandpa EVER.

Then. The layering! The way the story wove together truths about domestic violence and powerful snapshots from Greek myths and the story of two girls grappling with crushing grief in a town refusing to face what killed their best friend. The clips from the podcast focused on exposing violence against women. The Latin expression that was so precious to Cassie that comes up again and again through the story: collige virgo rosas.

I just.

I feel like there’s no way that I can review this book and do it justice at all. It might be the best book at weaving all these things together simultaneously and telling a story that bears the weight of the important topics it explores without being dominated by them.

I loved this book. This is going to be the book you hear about from me for like the next year, so if you know me in real life, probably go ahead and read it now. Ha! Really, though. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that felt as gripping and as weighty as this and had the moving writing style to back it up, too. Like maybe since I read THE BOOK THIEF? I’m not sure. I can see why McCauley is compared in the back cover copy to Laura Ruby, who wrote BONE GAP, which was also a densely packed, lyrical, moving book.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Major characters are three white girls. One girl is a lesbian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kiss between boy and girl. A girl recalls briefly that she slept with her boyfriend before she was ready and implies that he pressured or perhaps even forced her to do so.

Spiritual Content
Cassie is dead, but every night she appears as a ghost in the van owned by one of her two best friends.

Violent Content – Trigger warning for domestic violence/abuse and for gun violence and suicide and bullying.
Some descriptions of domestic violence. Some descriptions of a school shooting in which Cassie was killed and one of her best friends injured before the gunman ended his life. Those things happened before the book begins, so they’re related in short flashes of memory by the characters.

At one point, a girl finds a hateful message spray painted on her door. (I’ve referred to this as bullying, but I’m not sure what the right label for it is.)

Drug Content
The girls drink alcohol together and get drunk together as teens more than once.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog. I received a free copy of WE CAN BE HEROES in exchange for my honest review.

Review: A Summer Taken by Jason Milgram

A Summer Taken
Jason Milgram
Published July 4, 2020

Amazon | Goodreads

About A Summer Taken

“The old green sign with painted yellow letters confirmed it–I was back. And like it or not, this was happening.”

14-year-old Julia is back at Lake Bradford for a very different reason than last time. Two years ago, she and her cousin Lizzie got to experience Camp Auctus, a leadership camp for gifted girls rooted in tradition, a place where even their mothers and grandmothers attended as girls. Campfires, fireflies, talent shows, races by the lake, friendships, and a mysterious Writer’s Hut nestled in the woods were just a few of the things that made Camp Auctus special.

But after a tragedy takes her cousin away, the best summer of Julia’s life becomes her worst. And now, she’s back, tasked with writing a tribute to the cousin she loved so deeply. Except…Julia isn’t sure she can do it. How can she put into words what she still has not been able to understand? Lizzie wasn’t just her best friend–she was her inspiration for change in the world.

A book series about multi-generational family and friendship, loss and grief, gun violence, the growth of divisive anger and hate we have allowed in our country, and a story of love and hope.

My Review

I love that this book takes a hard look at gun violence and the devastating impact it can have on a family and community, especially in a divisive political climate. I thought the setting of a summer camp to empower girls was a cool idea as well.

One thing I struggled with, though, was Julia’s character. She complains a lot, and I want to give her a pass for the parts of the story where she’s brittle and angry because she’s grieving her cousin’s death. But even when we flash back to a time before that, her character felt pretty much the same to me then. Kind of resentful and complaining.

I wanted to see more relationships develop between Julia and the other camp girls, who it seemed at been close to her cousin, and so would be grieving for her loss as well. Instead, the people Julia responded to the most were the adults in the story, like her camp counselor and her aunt. Those were neat scenes, and I loved seeing good mentors represented, but sometimes it felt like they handed Julia the answers she needed rather than her fighting to discover answers for herself.

On the whole, I liked the message of the story and the positive examples of mentors and role models, but I feel like Julia’s character lacked agency, and I wish there had been more relationship building or problem-solving or grieving together with the other campers.

Fans of summer camp stories or readers looking for stories with a strong message may want to look into this one.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Main character and her family are white. Julia battled an eating disorder in the past. I’m not sure about the quality of the representation there, but mostly the timeline of the story doesn’t focus on it.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
Julia attends a funeral service for her cousin at a church.

Violent Content
Julia learns that her cousin was shot by a gunman at a political rally. She also overhears strangers laughing about her cousin’s death because they oppose her aunt’s political values.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of A SUMMER TAKEN in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog.

Review: Accidental by Alex Richards

Alex Richards
Bloomsbury YA
Published July 7, 2020

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

About Accidental

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.

My Review

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.

Content Notes

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.

Romance/Sexual Content
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.

Spiritual Content
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.

Drug Content
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.

Review: For Such a Time as This by Sharon Risher with Sherri Wood Emmons

For Such a Time as This
Sharon Risher with Sherri Wood Emmons
Chalice Press
Published June 11, 2019

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads

The instant her phone rang, Reverend Sharon Risher sensed something was horribly wrong. Something had happened at Emanuel AME Church, the church of her youth in Charleston, South Carolina, and she knew her mother was likely in the church at Bible study. Even before she heard the news, her chaplain’s instinct told her the awful truth: her mother was dead, along with two cousins. What she couldn’t imagine was that they had been murdered by a white supremacist.

Plunged into the depths of mourning and anger and shock, Sharon could have wallowed in the pain. Instead, she chose the path of forgiveness and hope – eventually forgiving the convicted killer for his crime. In this powerful memoir of faith, family, and loss, Sharon begins the story with her mother, Ethel Lee Lance, seeking refuge in the church from poverty and scorn and raising her family despite unfathomable violence that rattled Sharon to her core years later; how Sharon overcame her own struggles and answered the call to ministry; and how, in the loss of her dear mother,

Sharon has become a nationally known speaker as she shares her raw, riveting, story of losing loved ones to gun violence and racism. Sharon’s story is a story of transformation: How an anonymous hospital chaplain was thrust into the national spotlight, joining survivors of other gun-related horrors as reluctant speakers for a heartbroken social-justice movement. As she recounts her grief and the struggle to forgive the killer, Risher learns to trust God’s timing and lean on God’s loving presence to guide her steps.

Where her faith journey leads her is surprising and inspiring, as she finds a renewed purpose to her life in the company of other survivors. Risher has been interviewed by Time Magazine, Marie-Claire, Essence, Guardian-BCC Radio, CNN, and other media sources. She regularly shares her story on American college campuses and racial-reconciliation events. “To Forgive a Killer,” her essay as told to Abigail Pesta published in Notre Dame Magazine, won the 2018 Front Page Award for Essay published in a Magazine, awarded by the Newswomen’s Club of New York .

My Review

When I heard about FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS, I knew I needed to read it. I remember hearing about the shooting in Charleston and feeling deeply disturbed at the boldness and actions of the killer. Rev. Risher tells the story of her family and her journey through grief toward healing with courage and very straight talk. This isn’t a flowery, feel-good story. It’s raw and real, full of struggle, humanity, and faith.

Risher wades into political waters as she describes her personal evolution into an advocate for sensible gun laws and for racial equality in the United States. Hearing her perspective on why she travels the country speaking and how she developed her message moved me, too. It made me think about the way I have conversations with people.

She suggests beginning with a common ground. What is something that both parties agree on? Find that common ground and then build on it. I’m hoping to put this into practice in my own life as I have conversations about social issues with people I care about.

Risher’s frank discussion of racism in America left me with chills. Her calls to action to learn to have difficult conversations, to keep talking about racial issues even when we’re uncomfortable, stick with me even after the pages of the book are closed. I agree with her, and I want to find appropriate ways to be part of those conversations, too.

All in all, I think FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS is a must-read for anyone in America. This shooting happened here, perpetrated by a man with abhorrent ideas, ones shared by too many other people. After an event like that, I find myself wondering what to do, or how to respond. I think this book does a lot toward equipping people to do those very things.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Sharon Risher’s mother, two cousins, and a childhood friend, who are all black, were killed by a white supremacist at their church in Charleston.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used near a dozen times throughout the book.

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief recollection of falling in love and getting married.

Spiritual Content
Risher herself is a chaplain and calls on her faith to help herself and others through deep grief and anger.

Violent Content
Some brief descriptions of the mass shooting at the AME church in Charleston.

Drug Content
Simon and his friends drink alcohol, which is legal at eighteen in Australia.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS in exchange for my honest review.