I read this book while on holiday in Ireland with limited internet, which means although I was pretty prompt with reviewing it on Goodreads, it’s taken me until now to get it onto the blog. (I’m sucking at that lately — I’m working on it. One day, I’ll have an actual functioning schedule.) The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker was a book I requested from NetGalley on something of a whim, but unfortunately it didn’t quite click for me.
I’m not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t quite it. It’s a high school story where a newcomer faces up to a local bully but, due to an accident, people believe him responsible when that bully ends up in a coma. And far from ostracising him, this actually makes them like him — he finds himself revered by the popular crowd. However, the more he gets drawn into that side of the school, he realises he’s effectively becoming the bully and has to find his way back to his friends.
Which he does, mostly. To be honest, I thought he could have done more to make it up to the LARP group who had previously been his friends (even though he refers to them as the ‘dork squad’) — he treated them fairly terribly, and didn’t apologise as much as he could have done.
For the most part, it’s a fairly typical American high school story with homecoming kings and queens and all those things I don’t understand because I’m British. I remain baffled about my experience of secondary school versus those I read about — did I go to a particularly atypical school, or are books bad at representing it? And I’ve given up trying to understand American schools, to be honest.
This is set in a small town in Tennessee, and the claustrophobic churchy environment created by this was interesting, but it lacked power for me personally. I recently read If I Was Your Girl which had a similar setting but a more interesting protagonist, particularly in that context, and this paled in comparison — once you’ve seen how a trans girl deals with that environment, it’s hard to care all that much about a vaguely rebellious teenager, I have to admit.
As for Luke himself, I didn’t particularly relate to him nor get all that attached, but he didn’t annoy me the way some protagonists do, so it was a mixed experience. I felt pretty neutral towards him, even apathetic, which meant I kept reading more because I didn’t have a reason to stop than because I was desperate to know what happened.
It’s hard to know what to say about a book that had very little impact on me, emotionally speaking. I could critique the plot until the cows come home, but I won’t because (a) spoilers and (b) that’s kind of dull. I didn’t connect with the characters, and characters are what I like to talk about. It makes reviewing tricky, unless that in itself is the element I focus on. Which it could be. It’s definitely a weak point for me.
I did like Delilah — she was pretty cool — but I couldn’t understand why somebody like her would pay any attention to Luke, and she deserved better.
The writing style was okay, nothing outstanding or overly clunky. There were a few good lines that amused me, though.
Generally speaking, it was a fairly middling experience. It probably wasn’t helped by reading it when I was exhausted from having walked 21km the day before (although that has happened way too often recently) and not feeling very well, but I don’t think that was the only factor.
I think I’d probably give it 2.5 stars, which I’ll round up to three here because I’m feeling generous. It’s not that it does much to lose them; it just doesn’t do enough to warrant getting a higher rating.