cover image Day One

Day One

Abigail Dean. Viking, $29 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-29587-8

Dean (Girl A) depicts the fallout from a school shooting in this extraordinary literary thriller. During a primary school play in the coastal English enclave of Stonesmere, a gunman opens fire, killing more than a dozen people, many of them children. The resulting media storm opens up the door for Sandy Hook–style conspiracy theories to take root. Examining the aftereffects of the tragedy on Stonesmere’s tight-knit community, Dean zeroes in on two characters: Marty Ward and Trent Casey. Marty is the town’s star soccer player and the daughter of Ava Ward, a teacher who was killed in the massacre; Trent is a lonely young man who briefly lived in Stonesmere before leaving to move in with his mother’s new husband, and who now falls under the sway of a right-wing media charlatan peddling theories that the tragedy was a politically motivated hoax. What emerges is a complex, gutting portrait of communal grief and crushing isolation, which builds to a moving and unexpected climax. Though Dean’s stark prose steers clear of sensationalism, some readers may find the unflinching subject matter hard to stomach. Those willing to take the plunge, however, will be rewarded with an unforgettable triumph. Agent: Jenny Bent, Bent Agency. (Mar.)