A Certain October
by Angela Johnson
High School Simon 158 pp.
8/12 978-0-689-86505-3 $15.99 g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-1726-7 $9.99
At the start of the book, Scotty is an average high school junior living in East Cleveland. She hangs out with friends, makes plans for the homecoming dance, and avoids writing a book report on Anna Karenina. All that changes when she is in a train accident that leaves her younger brother Keone (age seven, autistic) in a coma and her classmate Kris dead. After the accident, the story’s events unfold in bits and pieces as Scotty comes to terms with all that has happened. She blames herself for the tragedies: if she knew how to drive, she and Keone wouldn’t have been on the train; if she hadn’t been flirting with Kris, he wouldn’t have stayed on the train beyond his stop. For all the drama, the story is refreshingly un-angst-ridden, told instead in a cool, detached tone that allows the powerful events to speak for themselves. Just as with Johnson’s The First Part Last (rev. 7/03), this slim book looks like it will be a quick read, but it turns out to be much more demanding — and rewarding — due to the story’s complex structure and the author’s gift for showing, not telling.