The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga is truly a book that speaks to issues we need to face today. I am grateful to NetGalley and Balzer+Bray for the opportunity to write this review. Warga has created two characters, Quinn and Cora, who reflect the type of young women that we see in middle schools in the 21st century. Quinn plays soccer, she is creative, and thoughtful. One of my favorite quotes in the book comes from Quinn. “Sometimes it’s like I get in trouble in school because I’m always thinking when I’m supposed to be learning.” Cora is on the Quiz Bowl team, is starting to have a crush on a teammate, and argues with her older sister. They have been best friends for a long time. Typical middle school girls, right? Absolutely.
It’s just that something awful, and something that is becoming more common, just happened. Quinn’s brother, Parker joined a white-supremacist group and chose to bring guns to school. Since Cora and her sister happen to be Muslim, Parker shot Cora’s sister and she died. If Quinn ever wants Cora to forgive her, she will have to figure out a way to change the events of the past.
Warga’s work with her characters and with the story is phenomenal. The narrative switches back and forth between Cora and Quinn’s perspective and this works exceptionally well. Both characters have distinct voices. Warga does not spend time outlining Parker’s decision to join a white-supremacist hate group, nor does she describe their views in any depth. This feels like the right decision for this book. The Shape of Thunder is not meant to center Parker’s hateful viewpoints, it is meant to show the damage that they have done to everyone around him.
Warga gives young readers the words and permission to advocate for themselves, while also making very clear that the problems of gun violence, xenophobia, and white supremacy are not their problems to solve. The fact of the matter is, as Cora and Quinn both make clear in this book, our world does not feel safe right now and the silence of adults is contributing to that feeling.
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
Action 17: I know how to stand up for myself and for others when faced with exclusion, prejudice and injustice.
Action 19: I will speak up or take action when I see unfairness, even if those around me do not, and I will not let others convince me to go along with injustice.