Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-0888-3 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5344-0890-6 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8–10
Fifteen-year-old Ronney hates explaining his identity to people interrogating his mixed-race appearance, and he hates Thursdays. It was on a Thursday that his dad brought a gun home, and it was on another, two years ago, that his dad attempted suicide using that same gun. It’s again on a Thursday when a local exotic animal collector sets his animals free and then commits suicide, and the media, the authorities, and gun-rights, animal-rights, and gun-control activists all swarm small-town Makersville, Indiana. With lions, tigers, and more now roaming the streets, Ronney, already a bit of a cynic, begins to question both nature and his family situation. As his father refuses to take his medication and his mother copes via diving deep into hers, much of the caretaking of his sister and their home is left to Ronney alone; town-wide gun ownership increases in response to the maulings, and a general air of disquiet is palpable as gunshots endanger lives both human and animal. Those are provocative themes, and the detail of the escaped animals (based on a real event a few years ago in Ohio) adds a surreal touch, as wild animals lurk in the background of a story that’s squarely human. His parents’ adult-sized issues, his own teenage angst, and the care of a young child all find their way onto Ronney’s plate, and he struggles against turning cold to it all. While the conclusion (Ronney’s little sister puts an end to the madness by shooting a tiger and, accidentally, their father) is surprisingly neat for a story so worthwhile in its messiness, this is a fitting read for complicated times.