cover image Endgame


Nancy Garden, . . Harcourt, $17 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205416-8

The Wilton family left Massachusetts for Connecticut after Gray, at 14, was twice suspended from middle school for carrying a knife to fend off bullies. Despite the fresh start at a new high school, Gray is immediately sicced upon again, this time by "the jock pack," and for no reason other than that they can. As the abuse escalates and becomes life-threatening, Gray's thoughts of revenge become an obsession. There's no one to turn to—teachers who witness harassment laugh it off as "boys will be boys," and Gray's gun-loving father has instilled in his son a feeling of utter worthlessness. Though absorbing, this "anatomy of a school shooting rampage" isn't totally convincing. Garden (Annie on My Mind ) structures the narrative as a series of conversations between Gray, who at 15 is awaiting trial on murder charges when the story opens, and his attorney, whose occasional interruptions feel tacked on and disrupt the flow. The characterizations of the villains and especially Gray's father feel cartoonish (at one point he nearly says he'd choose the family dog over his son's life). Even so, plenty of readers will keep going to find an ending even more tragic than expected. No one learns anything. The victimized kid gets no help. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)