Book Review: That Night

That Night – Amy Giles – HarperTeen – Published 23 October 2018

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Synopsis

One night in March, a terrible tragedy shakes the Queens neighborhood where Jessica Nolan and Lucas Rossi live.

The year since the shooting has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar, and deeply personal, ways. Lucas has taken up boxing and lives under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, while trying to put good into the world through random acts of kindness — to pay back a debt he feels he owes the universe for taking the wrong brother.

Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, with the help of her elderly next-door neighbor, and tries to make ends meet. Without her best friend, who’s across the country at a special post-trauma boarding school, and her brother, who died that night, Jess feels totally alone in the world.

When Jess and Lucas’s paths cross at their shared after-school job, they start to become friends… and then more.

Their community — and their families — were irrevocably changed by a senseless act of violence. But as Jess and Lucas fall in love, they’ll learn to help each other heal and move forward — together.

My thoughts

What happens when you survived but your brother didn’t? What do you do when your family is falling apart or panic grips you by the throat, when you are not sure why you were the one who survived? That Night by Amy Giles presents a unique perspective on gun violence, focusing entirely on the survivors and the emotional fallout from the loss. That Night is romantic and a powerful, emotional story of surviving and learning to live again.

Everything changed that night. Families. The way people looked at and treated you. You. A year ago Jess lost her brother in a shooting that shattered her world. Now her mother hardly gets out of bed and Jess needs to find a job to pay the bills. Lucas took up boxing after his brother sacrificed himself to save Lucas. But the boxing sometimes can’t control his panic attacks that seem to be increasing in frequency or the consuming guilt. Lucas and Jess are now tied together by tragedy, but when they start working together they find that shared memories might make for a wonderful friendship and even romance.

I adored Amy Giles’ debut, Now Is Everything. The clever use of tension, suspense and big reveals coupled with dramatic family breakdown and emotions to tug on your heart was superb. That Night is just as powerful and craftily written. Yet, That Night uses quiet realisations rather big moments; using the little things in life to demonstrate the biggest impact.

The focus of That Night remains on Jess and Lucas, on the survivors of that night and how that night impacts so many people in so many different ways. Few details about the events of that night are shared. Readers know almost from that start of the novel what happened that night and the vague events, but the details are never really fleshed out. This book isn’t about who did the shooting, why or how. Instead, everything is about the survivors and their journey through grief, depression, and the ways they try to cope, to continue to survive every day – whether through therapy, substance abuse, sport or relationships.

That Night is also very much focused on Jess and Lucus’ romance. The story celebrates relationships and how connections with another person, especially someone who understands exactly what you are going through, is so important. That Night is told in alternating perspectives of Jess and Lucas. Both were dramatically impacted by the events of that night. Both are grieving and reeling from the changes it brought. Both find comfort in each other as well as learning to cope with the situations in their families.

That Night combines romance and the power of relationships to provide a story about survival and resilience. A story that champions the voices of survivors.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Social themes, violence, gun violence, death, grief, guilt, survivors, depression, family, mental health, suicide, romance, relationships, financial difficulties, boxing.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Implied sex scene, no details. Vague sexual references. Violence – references to gun violence, shootings and death. Boxing injuries and fights. References to attempted suicide. Sexual references and implied sex scenes, no details. Coarse language, f*** (10), sh** (30), arse**** (3), pi** (3).

Published:  23 October 2018 by HarperTeen.

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 320 pages.

ISBN: 9780062495778

Find it on Goodreads

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