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Luke Grayson's life might as well be over when he's forced to go live in rural Tennessee with his Baptist pastor father. His reputation as a troublemaker has followed him there, and as an outsider, Luke is automatically under suspicion by everyone from the principal at his new school to the local police chief. His social life is no better. The new kid in town is an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak who has the entire community of Ashland under his thumb.
But things go topsy-turvy when a freak accident removes Grant from the top of the social pyramid, replacing him with Luke. This fish out of water has suddenly gone from social outcast to hero in a matter of twenty-four hours. For the students who have lived in fear of Grant all their lives, this is a welcome change. But Luke’s new found fame comes with a price. Nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker except for Luke, and the longer he keeps living the lie, the more like Grant Parker he becomes.
Source: advance e-galley provided by St. Martin's Griffin in exchange for an honest review
High school is that unique jungle that divides teens into various social classes. Students either love or loathe their experience. As my own child enters freshman year, I worry about what she'll encounter and how she'll adapt. I keep reminding myself that is a time for her to develop those valuable life skills - to figure out who she is and what genuine friendship means. That was reaffirmed for me as I read The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker.
Moving from Washington, DC to a small town has Luke Grayson completely out of his element. Being the new kid in his senior year is rough and is made worse when his principal and the local sheriff have him pegged as a troublemaker as soon as he enters the door. His goal is to remain under the radar, get through his senior year and then as far away as possible from Ashland. The universe unfortunately has other ideas. He ends up in a humiliating altercation with a mascot that only draws more unwanted attention to him. Then Grant Parker, football star and local god, zeroes in on Luke as his latest victim. When Luke is involved in an accident that sends Grant out of the picture, he becomes the hero who stood up to the bully. Suddenly he's popular. As his notoriety grows, it becomes glaringly obvious that he was more comfortable as an outsider than being part of the in crowd. Rather than do something to rectify the situation, he resigns himself to apathy.
What struck me most about the story is how realistic its premise is. Like most kids, Luke wants to sit at the cool kid table and fit in. The new pecking order means no longer socializing with the initial outcasts who befriended him. His situation reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a parent of a 6th grader who was having troubling with how to be nice to her old and new friends. It's definitely not an isolated problem. Two worthwhile characters to note are Delilah, the police chief's daughter and Roger, owner of a garage where Luke works. They are the most authentic people in Luke's life. Delila, who prefers to be an outsider has a cynical view on things whereas Roger tells it like it is, even if it's at Luke's expense. He has no qualms at all about telling him what a knucklehead he's being and that brings out the laughs. Everyone else had me doing so many eyerolls with their hypocritical nonsense that I couldn't wait to get out of there myself.
Kat Spears doesn't write likable or care-free characters. To a certain extent her heroes or anti-heroes are the most honest about who they are. And she lets their circumstances get messy before offering them the opportunity to redeem themselves, and that's why I'm drawn to her stories. There's no telling how things will turn out but I feel like her characters are always on the edge of discovering some grand, illuminating idea about life that will propel them forward. And that's the entire reason to read The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker.