At home, high-school junior Travis Ellroy has to live up to the memory of his golden-boy brother who committed suicide. At school he faces constant pressure and ridicule from the jocks and their girlfriends. Then he meets Daniel, a new kid who doesn’t seem afraid of anything. All Travis is good at is drawing, and praise from Daniel leads to a combustible friendship—one where manipulation makes Travis go to violent extremes to get what he thinks he wants and deserves most. Though you know Travis brings a gun to school from the first chapter, the events leading up to that day unfold with gripping tension, making this powerful debut novel impossible to put down.
Meyer's harrowing first novel moves at a breakneck pace as it examines a multitude of factors that lead to horrific violence. Travis Ellroy is a self-doubting junior and a frequent target of bullies, particularly star running back P.J., whose windshield Travis has damaged by lobbing stones from a hilltop. Travis also lives in the shadow of his older brother, a "golden boy" who shot himself six years earlier. As Travis befriends a new student, Daniel, he becomes more confident; a voice within him emerges that says things he himself is too scared to say. This voice both terrifies and bolsters Travis: "These words were mine somehow, though they came from a place I'd never known about." As Travis's relationship with Daniel strengthens (he teaches Travis how to fire a gun and gives him dating tips: "All girls play hard to get. You just have to keep pushing them until they give you what you want"), things take a turn for the worse. After Travis's date with a classmate ends badly, he and Daniel smash P.J.'s newly fixed windshield and get caught; then Travis launches into a murderous spree. Like Walter Dean Myers's recent Shooter, this novel intersperses the narrative with police interviews and journal entries. Although Meyer's story lacks the taut structure and deeper characterizations of Shooter, his book nonetheless sounds a chilling call to attention for parents and teachers. Ages 13-up.