May 4, 1970.
Kent State University.
As protestors roil the campus, National Guardsmen are called in. In the chaos of what happens next, shots are fired and four students are killed. To this day, there is still argument of what happened and why.
Told in multiple voices from a number of vantage points -- protestor, Guardsman, townie, student -- Deborah Wiles's Kent State gives a moving, terrifying, galvanizing picture of what happened that weekend in Ohio . . . an event that, even 50 years later, still resonates deeply.
Via many perspectives, this powerful free verse work explores the Kent State University shootings that shocked the U.S. in May 1970. Wiles (the Sixties Trilogy) sets the stage with a narrative prelude that contextualizes the campus unrest alongside the draft and seemingly unwinnable Vietnam War, and details how the incursion into neutral Cambodia further escalated tensions. The narrative begins as a lament and immediately draws the reader into the events with voices from varied points of view, including students, townspeople, the National Guard, and the Black United Students of Kent State. Font, size, and spacing set off the distinct, often conflicting, perspectives, thoughtfully underscoring each. Wiles divides the text into the four days leading up to the shootings, and eulogizes each of the four massacred students. The black students' voice proves particularly poignant in its depiction of long-standing institutionalized racism, and Wiles effectively portrays the combustible and enduring controversies that led to this tragedy. Ending with an extensive author's note, this hard-hitting historical novel provides valuable perspective on unrest and violence, both timely and timeless, and an invitation that speaks to the present: "We hope you're/ on fire/ for change." Ages 12 up.