Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review: Bang by Barry Lyga. Thanks so much to Hachette Canada for providing me with a copy of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Since I've started keeping track of my reading on Goodreads, in the last 3 years almost to the day, I have read 652 books. This is the first book I have cried in. Not just tears welling up in my eyes, but literal tears on my face. And for that, I applaud you, Barry Lyga.

The story follows 14-year-old Sebastian. Ten years before the story takes place, when he was 4-years-old, he took his father's gun and shot his 4-month-old sister in the head at point-blank range. Now, ten years later, he's struggling with his emotions; his parents are divorced, his one and only friend is leaving for the entire summer, and he isn't sure how he will get through. Then, one day, while he is out riding his bike, he spots some new neighbours moving in, including a girl, Aneesa, about his age. Sebastian tries to forge a new friendship while struggling with his feelings and whether or not he should tell her what he did all those years ago.

Going into this story, I knew the basic premise and I knew it was going to be a difficult, serious read. What I didn't know was just how deep it was going to be.

I'm going to avoid most of the controversial discussion as to guns and when/if they are acceptable, etc. and focus rather on Lyga's portrayal of them within the story. For Sebastian, that gun changed the course of his life, and he struggles throughout the book trying to navigate his past. His father blames himself for leaving the gun out to answer the door and Sebastian blames himself for not listening when his father told him to stay away. Sebastian's mother struggles with loving her son because he is her son, but also hating him because of what he did. Part of her knows that it isn't his fault, but part of her needs someone to blame.

Lyga's writing style and Sebastian's voice are unlike any others I think I have read. The conversations between Sebastian and his mom are heartbreaking, whenever he is ready to talk about it, she shuts him down, and vice versa. These moments felt so realistic and raw, I could see them happening right in front of me.

I was also pleasantly pleased with Aneesa. I am ashamed to say I'm not sure I've read a book with a Muslim character before, at least not one that was so prominent in the book. This book tackles not only the issue of gun safety but also Islamophobia. I am by no means an expert, but I think that Lyga did a good job with Aneesa's character. Her parents are a mixed race couple as well, something that shouldn't matter but does where they live. Her father is Muslim and her mother is not religious; Aneesa wears a hijab. The inclusion of a Muslim family was unexpected but I am so glad it was included and, from my outsider perspective, was well done.

This book was phenomenal, I think it might be a new favourite, and I will definitely be picking up a finished copy. I devoured the whole thing in less than two hours and one sitting, I just couldn't put it down.

Despite the sadness in this book, there was a lot of good. Sebastian makes a mean pizza and he and Aneesa create a YouTube channel where they make pizza. What's not to like about pizza?!

Overall, I loved this book and cannot recommend it enough. No matter who you are or what you normally read, you need to read this book.