Project X – Jim Shepard
In the wilderness of junior high, Edwin Hanratty is at the bottom of the food chain. His teachers find him a nuisance. His fellow students consider him prey. And although his parents are not oblivious to his troubles, they can't quite bring themselves to fathom the ruthless forces that demoralize him daily.
Sharing in these schoolyard indignities is his only friend, Flake. Branded together as misfits, their fury simmers quietly in the hallways, classrooms, and at home, until an unthinkable idea offers them a spectacular and terrifying release.
Review: This review is going to be short because I can’t say much about this book without spoiling it.
Edwin is a depressed and socially awkward eighth grader. His parents try to help him adjust to school, but the only person he can relate to is his friend, Flake. Unfortunately, Flake is just as depressed and socially awkward as Edwin. Together, the boys plan a school shooting to get revenge on the kids who bully them.
This book is a bit like watching a slow-motion train wreck. You know that it won’t have a happy ending, but you can’t stop reading. I was nervous about how it would end because there is no perfect ending for it. It would be disappointing if the boys went through with the shooting, and it would be anticlimactic if they didn’t. I think the story ended in the best way it could.
I also appreciate that this book isn’t a mental health fairytale. Edwin really struggles with his depression. He isn’t magically cured by a loving family, a pill, or a visit to a school counselor. No matter how hard his parents and teachers try to help, he’s still miserable. It’s sad, but it’s also very realistic.
The only thing that I don’t like about the book is that sometimes Edwin and Flake seem unrealistically weird. They’re socially awkward in the extreme. They do and say things that real humans probably wouldn’t. I’ve seen these ultra-weird characters in fiction before, and I don’t like them. They don’t feel realistic to me, and it takes away from the realism of the plot.