Bliss, Bryan

Thoughts & Prayers: A Novel in Three Parts

(2) YA "When was the last time she'd actually felt safe? She knew the exact minute of the exact day." Claire didn't die in the North Carolina school shooting that took the lives of three fellow students and a teacher, but she is a victim nevertheless, and so are Eleanor and Brezzen, whose lives are intertwined with Claire's, in Bliss's affecting narrative triptych. Claire's troubled existence at her new school in Minnesota is plotted out with precision, as she must decide "which routes to take in the hallway, which teachers would understand when she needed to just put her head down," and how to keep "monstrous" thoughts at bay. Where Claire is troubled, Eleanor is angry, her rage-infused first-person voice represented by the iconoclastic FUCK GUNS T-shirt she made after the incident. Her fury is directed at teachers, coaches, school board members, the whole town in North Carolina, where "it has been an entire year and nobody has done a damn thing." Brezzen has retreated into his fantasy-game world of Wizards & Warriors, with its Game Masters, dragons, and skeleton hordes. In each memorable narrative thread, characters are distinct and carefully drawn, though the author's hand is at times evident in language too adult-sounding ("It must be difficult to be a creation...To lose all sorts of...I don't know. Agency, maybe. Control?") and in advice offered by helpful teachers. But the three stories do yield "an honest picture of healing after trauma," as the author hopes for in his acknowledgments.


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