- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
- ISBN-10: 031238078X
- Source: Publisher
Rose McKenna volunteers to be a lunchroom volunteer when she learns her eight-year-old daughter Melly has been bullied by another little girl. Melly was born with a red birthmark that covers a large portion of her face. Amanda is a classmate of hers who relentlessly makes fun of Melly’s birthmark and her obsession with Harry Potter.
Right in front of her eyes, Rose witnesses a bullying incident, sending Melly to the bathroom in tears. Lunchtime is ending, children are filing outside for recess. Rose holds Amanda behind to talk to her about the incident. Before she has the chance, however, an explosion rocks the cafeteria, knocking Rose unconscious. When she awakens, the cafeteria is on fire, filling with smoke. She must decide which child she should save first: Amanda or her own daughter. She chooses to quickly usher Amanda outside before tending to her own daughter. Believing that both girls have been rescued, her soul is broken when she learns that Amanda ran back inside the school. When found, she’s severely injured, in a coma, on the brink of death.
Almost immediately, the other parents and townspeople blame Rose for Amanda’s injuries. They call her selfish, putting the life of her own daughter before the other children. Amanda’s parents intend to file both civil and criminal complaints against Rose. Her marriage put to the test, the future and stability of her family put at risk, Rose begins to start her own investigation. It soon becomes obvious that the explosion at the school was no accident. Rose risks everything to discover the individual(s) behind this brutal incident, and eventually, a history of criminal activity.
I was intrigued by the story immediately upon discovering it was based on a bullying incident. My own middle-school son was the victim of bullying so from page one, I had an emotional investment in this book. The first half of the book thrilled me, I couldn’t get enough of it. Rose was plagued with a decision no parent wants to make: in an emergency, do you put the safety of your child’s life before that of another?
That said, I began to loose interest near the second part of the book. So many other side stories, characters, etc. were rolled in, almost making the second half feel like another book. Rose, a character intent on devoting all of her spare time with her children, especially after the accident. She decides to drop of her two children with an elderly couple that are friends of the family. At first for a few hours, then for a few days. Totally out of character for Rose, it almost seems as though the author was grasping for a way to go all Nancy Drew without the burden of her children. Additionally, she nearly forgets about her husband, step-father of Melly. They are supposed to be in a loving relationship but she keeps secrets from him, makes rash decisions that impact that family without his input, and more.
With all of this considered, I would recommend this book for the first portion of the book, with the warning that the second part is a little far-fetched.
Following are some other takes on this book: