Author : Barry Lyga
Publisher : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date : April 18th, 2017
Rating : 3.8/5
Synopsis (from Goodreads) :
Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one–not even Sebastian himself–can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun.
Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend–Aneesa–to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.
It took a gun to get him into this.
Now he needs a gun to get out.
I realize I don’t have the same enthusiasm towards this one than most people.
Maybe I watch too many Hollywood movies, but I was expecting more “bang” from Bang, you know what I mean? However, it was a great read, thoughtful-wise (I think I just invented a word, English not being my first language, woopsieeee).
I was very impressed with the subject Lyga tackled, and the message it delivered. We hear too often about gun violence, victims, guilty and how to properly handle such an issue. In the political realm, that’s great, right? It MUST be fixed. But here we have another part of the story: the aftermath. What happens to the family left behind? What happens with the killer? But more shockingly, what if the killer is part of your own family, and you have to live with it? With such a plot, I was immediately attracted to it.
BANG met my storyline, characters and depth expectations. No, honestly, it SURPASSED those expectations. Really, it deserves a standing ovation!
Let me start with the characters: Sebastian is the one who killed his baby sister (nop, not a spoiler). His desire to die is well-structured, he’s very reasonable about it. Although he’s not the most fun and engaging MC I’ve ever read about, his character development was masterfully done. It was believable. It wasn’t white to black in a second. There was no epiphany, there were no life-changing, tearful arguments. And it all contributes to the fact that he’s quite complex, as a character. Lyga managed to capture his state of mind and his shifting thoughts in a well-paced and well-structured way.
But the real joy was Aneesa. Personally, I felt as if the spotlight was on her, as I liked her very much and she was the only sunshine in this rainy novel. Aneesa’s the new girl in the very-white neighborhood. Why is that relevant? Because she’s a Muslim who wears a hijab in a very-white neighborhood. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the theme of islamophobia, as she often referred to it to talk about her worries of living in America, and the very real discrimination against Muslims. Apart from this awareness, she is so sweet, and funny, and smart and creative. Fiercely proud and supportive till the end, she’s the kind of friend you’d like to have.
What makes Bang truly remarkable, however, isn’t the characters. What made it soar beyond my expectations was the realness and unflinching honesty of the aftermath’s depiction. We see the difficulty of reconciling a terrible mistake Sebastian did as a 4 y/o with who he is now. Not only is he trapped in this ordeal, but he’s also painfully aware of how others see him, his reputation as a sister-killer, and it taints every relationship he has. While I was reading through it, I had to have several times this thought :”Wow…” (in a good way!). I don’t have enough English vocabulary to describe how I felt, or how it is. It was just so… realistic.
I highly recommend this book for… well, everyone. Awareness of this kind of mental and social issues is to be spread like a virus because it’s too easy to blame, to judge, without taking into consideration all the details. But I’d advise not to dive in with expectations of excitement. Often, I found it very dull. But that’s just a matter of opinion.
** I’d like to thank NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with an e-ARC of this novel!