Our World Needs More Than “Thoughts & Prayers,” but This Powerful Book is a Good Start
Almost four years after the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, author Lee Anne Post pays homage to the victims in her novel THOUGHTS & PRAYERS (Milford House Press, released October 26, 2021). This riveting and terrifying read takes us into the minds of the perpetrators, the victims, and the victims’ families in a fictitious shooting at Rockwell High School in Anywhere, USA.
High-school senior Lily Jeong’s classmates ignore her. Although the Rockwell community is diverse, she might as well be invisible. She didn’t know how to connect to people. “She was defective, but wanted to find a way to fix herself.” Lily believes that regardless of how hard her parents push her to excel and how hard she works, she’s never good enough. The only one who truly sees her is the boy who lives in the house behind hers, Aaron Blake Crofton.
As their romance becomes more intimate, Aaron promises he can punish those who ignore Lily at school. He assures her no one will get hurt, but he needs her help.
After Lily opens a locked back door and lets Aaron into the school building, she’s stunned to realize Aaron lied to her. After three bombs explode — which were supposed to only scare people but caused extensive damage — he walks through the school shooting teachers and students at random. When it’s all over, 15 people are dead and more injured.
It horrifies Lily to realize she’s an accomplice.
Keisha Washington excels in both her classes and student activities, but her confidence and drive struggle after the guidance counselor takes a bullet while trying to protect her. But she knows she has to stop the gun violence that is all too present in the world.
“Don’t send us your thoughts and prayers. Don’t tell us ‘it is what it is’ and nothing will change. Enough is enough. Don’t tell us your right to own a gun is more important than our right to be alive.”
Sofia Hernandez sees her best friend Caitlyn Moran get shot right in front of her. Sofia’s father is the policeman who first entered the building; he feels impotent because he couldn’t protect the students and his daughter.
Charmaine Robinson is an ER nurse who’s married to the school guidance counselor who the gunman killed while he protected a student. She deals with the injured as they come to the ER and learns of her husband’s death at work. She’s not sure how she can go on without him.
Caitlyn Moran is a victim who appears throughout the novel as a spirit, trying to protect those she left behind. Her father Mike wants revenge against the gunman and vows to find his accomplice.
Readers experience the visceral fear of the mass shooting, the tragedy of the aftermath, the grief of the survivors and their families, and the futility of trying to enact change. On every page, we experience the gravity of the violence.
The Art of Storytelling:
The novel depicts the far-reaching ripple effects of violence.
Post tells the story from the individual perspectives of the gunman, the accomplice, the victims, and the survivors. Readers empathize with each character as they try to deal with the effects of the shooting.
The story is a testament to the need for gun control and a better system to address the psychological needs of disenfranchised kids. Post poignantly depicts issues of mental illness, PTSD from bullying, the need for better gun control, empowerment, the struggle to keep schools safe, and the impact of violence in our communities.
Lee Anne Post is the pseudonym for co-authors Catherine Baldau, Tara Bell, Ginny Fite, and K.P. Robbins. Their grief over the Parkland school shooting and their admiration for the resilience of the Parkland community in dealing with the tragedy inspired this novel.
What I Liked Best:
The way each chapter depicted a different point of view for each character in the drama, and how the tragedy personally affected each.
THOUGHTS & PRAYERS is a timely commentary on our gun-obsessed society and the tragedy of the mass shootings that are all too common. It’s true that we need more than thoughts and prayers — we need gun control laws to protect our most vulnerable, and we must address the psychological impact of bullying and emotional abuse suffered in schools.
A Tweet from the ER doctor in the book sums up the novel’s message:
“I object to bullet holes in my patients, I object to children arriving dead in my ER, I object to politicians who put money over lives, to endless funerals. Where is our reason? #EndSenselessViolence.”
You can also read this review at BookTrib.com.