We Can Be Heroes
Katherine Tegen Books
Published September 7, 2021
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.