*I was sent an advance reading copy of this book, from Little Brown/The NOVL, for review purposes. All opinions are my own.*
Bang is not a story that I’ve read in the YA genre before. Although some issues in this book have been done before, the ones that stood out the most – gun violence and Muslimophobia, seems to escape my notice in YA lit. This is my first go ’round with Barry Lyga, so I had no clue what to really expect. I can say that this book surprised me, and brought out a number of emotions. Besides the engrossing story, the book is very well written and it delivered on the issues presented.
If you read the synopsis, then you know that Sebastian killed his little sister when he was four. I know, tragic right? It is not something that I know a lot about. As a kid, I remember waking up to sirens and our street flooded with cops and an ambulance. My neighbor, who was around 8 at the time, was accidentally shot in the head by his 11 year-old cousin who was visiting. He lived, so I can’t say how it would have been for his family had he died. Sebastian’s story is…… I just can’t explain it. How do you move on from something devastating like that? His mind was everywhere, but not in the chaotic sense. He was mentally breaking down and wanting to right the wrong he did when he was a toddler. His mother was even more melancholy. I am impressed by the way the author displayed their emotions, as it made the story so much more real. Sebastian’s desire to kill himself just tore at my heartstrings. I just have this thing about mental illness represented in literature; especially in YA.
The other side to this story is the arrival of Aneesa. Now, with all that’s going on in this world – this country to be more exact, I was surprised at the anti Muslim issue, but I think it was well placed within the story. Aneesa’s character is very much a part of this story. She and Sebastian become good friends, but it was not always easy. I actually balled up my fists a few times while reading. I cannot tolerate hate in any form or fashion. So I felt for Aneesa as she had to deal with it all. I love her character, as she was just a lively girl and she was there for Sebastian. He definitely needed a friend. Sebastian got a little carried away at one point in their friendship, but it all worked out for the best. Okay, so I may have laughed about it. It wasn’t really funny until Sebastian says the word that was rolling around in my head when it happened. Then, I could laugh because it was his thought that made it okay.
I don’t want to spoil this, so I can’t say more. This book is raw and emotional, but not so much that you won’t enjoy it. Barry Lyga definitely has me wanting to read more of his work. Okay, maybe not the serial killer ones. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy realistic fiction. It’s not a long read, and I was surprised by how much emotion is packed into it. Again, the writing is superb and I think Lyga created a realistic account of what it’s like to live with a family tragedy such as this.