A Murder over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High

Ken Corbett. Holt, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9920-1
Psychologist Corbett (Boyhoods) recounts, with riveting clarity and deep humanity, the 2011 trial of Brandon McInerney for fatally shooting his 15-year-old classmate Larry King during their middle-school English class in Oxnard, Calif., in 2008. But as he brings careful precision and a trained clinical eye to the desperate, painful facts of the shooter and victim—Brandon, white, from a broken and violent home, was 14 at the time of the shooting and beginning to exhibit white supremacist loyalties; Larry, mixed-race, removed from his adoptive home on charges of abuse, had just begun to identify as transgender—Corbett also excavates the chilling and dangerous beliefs that led the defense to construct a persuasive story of a “normal” boy pushed over the edge of self-control by a flamboyant “queer.” He draws out the suspense of the courtroom drama by intertwining his professional knowledge of adolescents, gender, and trauma with empathetic portraits of the people involved, and he recounts his personal struggle to understand the case as it unfolds. Corbett depicts these events as a story in which emotion outweighs logic and ethics, in which exhibiting gender variance is a worse crime than hatred, and in which the human mind makes sense of something confounding through denial and erasure. Profound and disturbing, this heartbreaking testimony of our culture’s worst fissures suggests that understanding is the only way to heal. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 11/09/2015
Release date: 03/01/2016
Ebook - 978-0-8050-9921-8
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-250-11815-8
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