cover image SHOOTER


Walter Dean Myers, . . HarperTempest/Amistad, $15.99 (223pp) ISBN 978-0-06-029519-6

In this chilling cautionary tale, Myers revisits the themes of his Monster and Scorpions in a slightly more detached structure, but the outcome is every bit as moving. The novel opens with what serves as a cover sheet to a "Threat Analysis Report," which, in its mission statement, makes mention of "the tragic events of last April."

Gradually, readers discover that Len Gray killed a fellow high school student before taking his own life. Through transcripts of various adults questioning Len's friends, Cameron Porter and Carla Evans, readers get to form their own opinions about how much these two may or may not have contributed to the events of that day. Myers sculpts every character here in three dimensions, including the interviewers. Dr. Ewings, the psychologist, shows compassion toward Cameron, and therefore the 17-year-old reveals to him the most intimate details of his friendship with Len and also his home life. Cameron's interview with FBI Special Agent Victoria Lash, on the other hand, puts Cameron on the defensive. When she pointedly questions Cameron about what she calls his "money-conscious" parents, he tells the agent, "They make more than most people. They make more than you do. Does that bother you?" to which she replies, "I'm white and you're black, does that bother you?"

Here, no one is completely innocent and no one is entirely to blame. A myriad of small occurrences add up to the tragic outcome: blind spots on the part of teachers and coaches, parents who are consumed with their own lives and not considering how their actions have an impact on their children. Myers takes no shortcuts: all three teens are smart (readers get to know Len through his journal entries, handwritten in a somewhat deranged-looking scrawl and included as an appendix); all three consider themselves outsiders. Readers will find themselves racing through the pages, then turning back to pore over the details once more. Ages 12-up. (May)