An extraordinary new novel from Jasmine Warga, Newbery Honor–winning author of Other Words for Home, about loss and healing—and how friendship can be magical.
Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year.
Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did.
On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note. She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever—and stop him.
In spite of herself, Cora wants to believe. And so the two former friends begin working together to open a wormhole in the fabric of the universe. But as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of time travel to save their siblings, they learn that the magic of their friendship may actually be the key to saving themselves.
The Shape of Thunder is a deeply moving story, told with exceptional grace, about friendship and loss—and how believing in impossible things can help us heal.---from the publisher
288 pages 978-0062956675 Ages 9-13
Keywords: friendship, friends, school violence, death and dying, grief, resilience, healing, loss, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old
“There is a clear correlation between Trump campaign events and incidents of prejudiced violence. FBI data show that since Trump’s election there has been an anomalous spike in hate crimes concentrated in counties where Trump won by larger margins. It was the second-largest uptick in hate crimes in the 25 years for which data is available, second only to the spike after September 11, 2001”
-- Brookings Institute, “Trump and Racism: What Do the Data Say?” (2019)
“If I could turn back the hands of time
(Turn back the hands of time)”
-- Tyrone Davis (1970)
“‘Q, honey,’ Dad says. ‘Are things…’ He stops talking. He looks off in the distance. When Dad was younger, his brain used to also Freeze Up. Maybe that’s what’s happening right now.
He shakes his head a little and starts again. ‘Are things hard for you? Would you like a fresh start? A chance to make new friends?’
At this, Mom stands up. She snatches the serving plate of pasta and walks over to the sink. She dumps it all into the trash, which is a real bummer because I was hoping to eat more later when the fighting stopped and I could stomach it.
‘Uh,’ I say. There are so many things I want to say, but so many things that I know that I can’t.
‘You can be honest with us, Q,’ Dad says. He tilts forward in his chair, and I push back in mine.
‘How dare you, Daniel!’ Mom’s voice is high and strained. My shoulders lurch toward my ears as I sink down in my seat. ‘You can’t ask her questions like that. We’re raising her to be strong and resilient. Not to run away from her problems.’
‘Resilient,’ Dad says. ‘Right. That’s another one of your parenting buzzwords. Look how well that worked out with--’
Mom spins around. She wags a finger at him, and I see how short and ragged her fingernail is. It’s clear she’s been biting them. ‘They were yours. Remember that. They were yours.’
They were yours. My heart experiences a tiny earthquake, a shake and shudder. She’s talking about the guns. Dad’s guns. The guns that Parker used.”
“Dad rearranged his whole class schedule so that he can always make my Dr. Randall appointments. I told him that wasn’t necessary--it’s not like Grams or him even go into the appointment with me--they just sit in the hall and wait for the session to be over. Sometimes they catch up with Dr. Randall after, but usually they just wave to him and we go on our way. I’d be lying though if I said knowing that Dad was sitting in the hallway wasn’t comforting to me. It feels nice to know for that forty-five minutes exactly where Grams and he are. Ever since Mabel died, I’ve spent a lot of time calculating the whereabouts of people I love. I’ve learned that no one is ever really safe, even when it seems like they should be.
That might actually be the worst thing I’ve learned, and I’ve learned a lot of terrible things.”
Quinn and Cora are now in seventh grade. Their friendship was already strong, back when they were preschoolers. But things changed the day that Quinn’s big brother Parker shot Cora’s big sister Mabel. Parker and Mabel are both dead.
The shooting took place on November 11. The story begins ten months later when, on Cora’s birthday, Quinn leaves a box on Cora’s doorstep. The girls have not spoken since that unspeakable tragedy. Cora feels that it would be disloyal to her dead sister to continue being friends with the sister of Mabel’s killer. Quinn feels guilty and would do anything to turn back the hands of time and say something to somebody about her brother’s behavior. He’d been sullen and had been spending a lot of time holed up in his room. He’d spewed hatred about “others” at the dinner table and online. And she knew that he knew how to access their father’s guns.
As we come to learn, Cora and Mabel’s dad was a Muslim immigrant from Lebanon. Now he’s a well-respected college science professor. And Parker was once a caring and loving big brother. What happened to Parker to make him a murderer who has destroyed the lives of these two families?
THE SHAPE OF THUNDER is the powerful, compelling tale of two lifelong girlfriends coming to grips with the tragedy. The girls differ in many ways, yet seem to have always fit together so well. Even now, when they are at odds, they unconsciously fall into old habits that reveal mutual caring and comradeship. What will it take to bring them back together?
Each girl has a wise older woman in her life. A particularly interesting character is Grams, Cora’s maternal grandmother. Grams has lived with Cora and Cora’s dad, although Grams’s daughter--Cora’s mother--took off when Cora was a baby. Quinn too has a wise woman in her life: the school librarian, Mrs. Euclid.
It really gets to me how the hatred and prejudice that has always been a part of America just keeps coming around. Every parent, friend, and leader needs to set a good example for young people so that we can somehow break the cycle. If we’re going to get better, every one of us needs to speak out loud and clear. Stop the hate.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
See more of Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.