Review of The Shape of Thunder

The Shape of Thunder
by Jasmine Warga
Middle School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    288 pp.    g
5/21    978-0-06-295667-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-295669-9    $9.99

A dual-perspective novel follows two girls in the aftermath of a school shooting. Almost a year after her older sister was killed in that shooting by a classmate, twelve-year-old Cora still struggles to make sense of life without her. Cora also misses her now estranged best friend Quinn, whose brother, also dead, was the shooter. In alternating chapters, both girls deal with processing their grief and defining their roles at school and at home. Academically focused Cora tries to connect with her Quiz Bowl teammates and her Lebanese heritage, while Quinn latches on to the idea of traveling back in time to prevent the shooting from happening. Quinn persuades Cora to join her in trying to create a wormhole that will allow them to time-travel, but Cora continues keeping her distance until a minor crisis leads them to reconnect and gives both girls the chance to explain to their families what they need in order to make peace with their losses. Warga (Newbery honoree for Other Words for Home, rev. 7/19) skillfully develops unique voices for her narrators, and the novel’s alternating-perspective structure works well. Emotions run high throughout the book without weighing down the plot, and the portrayal of middle-school life is utterly authentic. Warga tells a quiet story despite the dramatic events that led up to it, presenting a sad but not overwhelming narrative.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Rettger
Sarah Rettger is an independent bookseller in Boston.

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