I applaud this author for spreading such an important message.
This book is about a school shooting. Most people know someone who has been affected by a horrible experience such as this, or at least realizes that these events have been increasing in quantity in America recently.
The one thing that I think makes this such a strong story is that it shows the shooter in a different light. Most of the time after a traumatic event such as a shooting, you hear people who knew them say that they never could have anticipated the person doing something so horrible or that they didn't see it coming and that can be completely true. But people who look at the situation from the outside are so quick to criticize these people or say 'how could they not see it coming?' or 'clearly the shooter was messed up' as if they're monsters or completely inhuman. What people often don't think about is that these people are/were exactly that. Human. In this case, Nick was a son. A friend. A boyfriend. A student. Not some clinically insane, deluded demon. Sure, he talked about death, but who hasn't? Sure, his girlfriend discussed killing people with him, but to her it was fiction. How could she know that to him, it was real?
In this book, Valerie is struggling to survive after her boyfriend brings a gun to their high school and kills their classmates, and afterwards, himself. The people he targeted were subjects on his and Valerie's 'hate list', a list of people they made that they hated. Nick and Val got bullied daily, and this was what she said was their way of coping. What she didn't know was how seriously Nick took this list. After the shooting, people didn't know what to think. A lot of people blamed Valerie or thought that she was in on the plan. Others wished that Nick had killed her, instead of shooting her in the leg after attempting to stop him.
Valerie has so much to deal with after the incident. Her parents don't trust her, her friends blame her, and on top of that she has to deal with the guilt of what happened and for missing her boyfriend even after what he'd done. The media is stirring up some bullshit talking about how the school has moved on and how peaceful all of the students act towards each other, but when Valerie goes back to school, she realizes how wrong they are. Bullies still exist, and it feels like everyone hates her for something that she didn't do.
Slowly, with help, she starts to remember who she was before and what she needs to do in order to recover. Great example of a human experience and how to cope with tragedy.