Book Review: That Night

That Night
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date:  October 23, 2018
Page Count: 320
Buy it at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or IndieBound
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher
YA Fiction

Several years ago, I reviewed a book about a school shooting called This is Where It Ends.  I've had occasion to wonder all too often since then about the aftermath of mass shootings and how people learn to pick up the pieces afterwards.  Or don't.  Amy Giles's book That Night fits perfectly into that slot showing the similar feelings but very different experiences of two teenagers who survived a mass shooting at a movie theater.

I love that That Night was apolitical.  Despite being about psychological healing after a shooting, Giles does not engage the gun debate at all.  Rather, she focuses on Jess and Lucas's emtional states and that of their families. No one has to agree on gun control or Second Ammendment issues to appreciate the depth of pain caused by mass violence and the difficulty of healing self, family, and community afterward.  This neighborhood has done its best, but still people and relationships can slip through the warp and weft of this close-knit community, and children end up with PTSD or using gallows humor to cope with untenable situations and unmet needs.

Giles's writing was compelling to say the least; I finished this book in less than a day.  The voices of her two narrators, Jess and Lucas, were distinct and realistic, and I "heard" these teenagers confiding their thoughts and feelings to me.  Additionally, Giles writes inclusively.  While her use of specific brand names and slang was for the teenagers, some of the movies and music the characters reference is definitely for the older (*cough*) reader.  Anyone over the age of fourteen can engage with this book.

My one problem with That Night—and I'm still kind of unsure what I think—is that Jess and Lucas's relationship seems pretty straightforward.  I don't need angst for angst's sake, and they have plenty of other drama dealing with their grief, but there aren't any real obstacles to the two of them being together.  The point of the book is healing and moving forward, but I thought that would make their relationship much more difficult than it was.  Either way, though, That Night has the sweetest, funniest first kiss scene I've read in at least ten years.

A quick, and surprisingly easy read tackling a challenging and timely theme.  I would not be surprised to see this book ending up in classroom curricula—there's plenty to talk about.


One night in March, a terrible tragedy shakes the Queens neighborhood where Jessica Nolan and Lucas Rossi live.

The year since the shooting has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar, and deeply personal, ways. Lucas has taken up boxing and lives under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, while trying to put good into the world through random acts of kindness — to pay back a debt he feels he owes the universe for taking the wrong brother.

Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, with the help of her elderly next-door neighbor, and tries to make ends meet. Without her best friend, who’s across the country at a special post-trauma boarding school, and her brother, who died that night, Jess feels totally alone in the world.

When Jess and Lucas's paths cross at their shared after-school job, they start to become friends… and then more.

Their community — and their families — were irrevocably changed by a senseless act of violence. But as Jess and Lucas fall in love, they'll learn to help each other heal and move forward — together.