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That Night


That Night

THAT NIGHT by Amy Giles is told in alternating perspectives between Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by a mass shooting at the local movie theater a year ago in their Queens, New York, neighborhood. Jess was watching the movie with her brother, Ethan, and best friend, Marissa, while Lucas was there with his brother, Jason. Both Ethan and Jason did not survive the shooting, whereas the other three did. However, Marissa was quickly sent away to a boarding school, leaving Jess to deal with the aftermath without the support of her best friend. Since that night, Jess has been forced to care for her depressed mother and take on the responsibilities of running the household, while holding down a job at a local repair store. To deal with the aftermath of the event, Lucas takes up boxing under the watchful eyes of his overprotective helicopter parents, and he also works at the repair store in town. Throughout the novel, their paths converge and they slowly become friends and then something more.

"Giles’ construction of each scene is written beautifully....Giles creates a compelling novel that accurately portrays the complexity of the aftermath of this tragic event."

This novel is quite a powerful one, and unfortunately deals with events that too often permeate our society today. While the individuals lost in each mass shooting can simply be seen as statistics, Giles breaks this boundary by giving the characters impacted a personality, with a family and a meaningful life that they left behind. The novel is told through a heartbreaking look of how grief unravels throughout time, and how it affects individuals in various ways. Jess is affected by the silence that echoes through her house since her brother’s departure, whereas her mom is affected by every little thing reminding her of Ethan. Lucas is set on getting his aggression out through boxing, which is in contrast to his parent’s wishes to keep everything the same, as if nothing has changed in their lives.

Giles’ construction of each scene is written beautifully. The chapters alternate perspective between Lucas and Jess, at times both conveying the same scene so the reader is able to get both of their perspectives on it. Other scenes are unrelated snippets of their life that serve to add to the rich layers of each character. Giles is also able to weave in vulnerable memories centering on each of the characters and their late brothers, which is a helpful tool for the reader to feel like they were invested in their childhood and relationships.

Indeed, Giles creates a compelling novel that accurately portrays the complexity of the aftermath of this tragic event. The reader is able to watch the characters try to gain more control in their life as they heal and pick up the pieces. I found it powerful that Giles chose to begin her novel a year after the event, accurately showing how the lives of the family members were still affected, and the community as a whole. Often times after these tragic events, unless affected by it personally, people’s interest and memory begins to fade. However, she is able to depict the true vulnerable lives these characters live in, opening the eyes of many who are fortunately not affected by tragedies such as these.

THAT NIGHT is highly recommended to any young adult looking for a heavier novel to gain a broader perspective regarding tragedies such as these. Content warning for grief, depression, PTSD, drug abuse and attempted suicide.

Reviewed by Ryan H., Teen Board Member on November 13, 2018

That Night
by Amy Giles

  • Publication Date: October 23, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0062495771
  • ISBN-13: 9780062495778