From Jasmine Warga, the author of Other Words from Home, comes another must-read middle grade novel. The Shape of Thunder takes place months after a horrific tragedy and is told from alternating perspectives by former best friends Cora and Quinn. Cora’s sister, Mabel, was shot and killed by Quinn’s brother, Parker, in a school shooting. Both families are reeling from the loss, while Cora and Quinn are now also dealing with the breakdown of their friendship. Quinn, in a desperate attempt to make things right with her friend, comes up with an idea to try and prevent the violence of that unspeakable day. Neither wants to believe that things cannot be changed, so they embark on a seemingly impossible journey to make things right. Through their journey, they discover that confronting their pain may be easier than changing the past. This is an excellent middle grade story about the aftermath of a school shooting and how two former friends cope with guilt, loss, racism, and grief.
Right off the bat, one of the only things I can say is wow. What a heart-wrenching, yet hopeful book. This may be one of the best portrayals of loss and grief in a middle grade book. Cora and Quinn are both struggling in their own ways, but they often find themselves grappling with the same questions fueled by their grief. The dual perspective is a great insight into how two people can be dealing with the same situation in completely complex and different ways. Jasmine Warga does a great job of writing this book with care. There are no detailed scenes of the tragedy that took place for those who may be sensitive to the subject matter, instead only the emotional aftermath of the events and the people who are left to deal with them. Despite this, she remains honest in her storytelling, with her characters never shying away from asking the big questions, and the adults admitting they don’t always have all the clear answers.
This is an important book to have for educators, librarians, and children alike. I would highly recommend this one for grades 5-9. This book will help kids find their way through dealing with tragedy, grief, and anger. Warga takes some heavy issues and makes them manageable and understandable for middle grade readers and ultimately provides a message of hope and understanding. There are many things in this book that would also make for great mentor texts, such as the dual perspective, some in-story letter writing, the descriptive nature of the writing, and the ways in which the author integrates flashbacks. This has quickly become one of favourite middle-grade novels to date and it will have a place on my shelf for a long time.
Lauren Sieben is a Grade 8 ELA teacher at Perth-Andover Middle School. Her favourite activity is reading books. Her second favourite activity is talking about them.