Math. Science. Geography. These still make sense to Cora. They’re subjects with right and wrong answers, things that can be explained through reason and logic—unlike what happened to her sister, Mabel. In Newbery Honor author Jasmine Warga’s The Shape of Thunder, 12-year-old Cora and her former best friend, Quinn, are dealing with the repercussions of the day Quinn’s older brother brought a gun to school and killed four people, including himself and Mabel. Can Cora and Quinn heal their friendship after something like that? Or, better yet, can they actually change the past?
It’s been a year since the tragedy. Cora spends most of her time participating in Junior Quiz Bowl, meeting with her therapist and pushing her father to learn more about their family’s Lebanese heritage. Quinn spends most of her time alone. No one wants to talk to her, and her parents barely speak anymore, except to fight. When Quinn sends Cora a mysterious box on her birthday, it contains a glimmer of potential—to make things right, to rewrite what happened.
Alternating between Cora’s and Quinn’s perspectives, The Shape of Thunder provides a heartbreaking yet hope-filled look into two lives that have been forever altered by an act that neither of them committed. As they are drawn back together by their curiosity about and eventual belief in the possibility of time travel, Warga offers glimpses of the deep friendship Cora and Quinn used to share. Grief, anger, blame, fear and confusion swirl inside them both, and Warga excels at depicting how each girl experiences their emotions differently. Cora can’t eat pizza anymore because it reminds her of all the times she and Mabel ate it together, while formerly obedient Quinn takes a forbidden shortcut through the woods to get home from school each day because following the rules no longer seems important.
Moving and beautifully written, The Shape of Thunder is an important book that will push readers to consider what they would do in an impossible situation, and how far they would be willing to go to change it.