Boy Shattered follows our two main characters, Brian and Landon, and takes place at Jefferson Waller High School. The story starts off as an ordinary day at school, and we’re introduced to our two protagonists, who, as of yet, barely know each other. Brian Marshall is a handsome and popular quarterback who is secretly hiding the fact that he’s gay, mainly because of his extreme right-wing gun-praising father and Landon Hughes, one of only a few openly out and proud gay students at the school.
The next day, two gunmen attack the school, and in the midst of the shooting rampage, Landon comes across Brian in the school cafeteria, bleeding out from a gunshot wound on the floor. Following his instincts, Landon immediately put pressure on the wound and saves Brian’s life.
What follows in the heart-wrenching aftermath of the school tragedy is the strong connection that forms between Brian and Landon. Brian is now living with severe PTSD and survivor’s guilt, and through it all, Landon ends up becoming Brian’s sole system of support. Brian now only feels safe when he’s in Landon’s presence and comes to depend on him. It’s also worth mentioning that the shooters were not caught, which only adds to Brian’s anxiety.
In the days that follow, Brian starts spending more and more time with Landon and his parents, and a powerful friendship developed between the two boys. It doesn’t take long for Brian to admit to Landon that he’s not only gay but that he’s had a secret crush on Landon for a while; though this admission doesn’t happen right away — the romance is definitely a slow burn.
I enjoyed that the story is told both from Brian and Landon’s point of view, allowing us to see both the events and the aftermath from both of their perspectives. We really get a feel for Brian’s fear, anxiety, and uncertainty and Landon’s strong desired to not only protect Brian but to enact permanent change. It also helped to show the different paths each had to take in order to heal from the event.
Now let me say that the first couple of chapters, which chronicled the events of the shooting massacre, were absolutely brutal to read. The author does not sugarcoat the events of the shooting nor the aftermath and steps us through the event in a realistic way. It then zeros in on the shell-shocked survivors in the subsequent days.
This story hit me hard: it’s raw, heart-shattering, visceral, and with so much horror and grief. And though it’s fiction, you realize while reading it that this has actually happened to real people in real life. That realization was extra tough to get through.
But through the tragedy, there is a silver lining, and that is the slow and tender romance that develops between Brian and Landon. Their story was hopeful and uplifting — a light that shines through the darkness. But though there was a romance between the two boys, the heart of this story was how each of them deals with the after-effects of the shooting, each coping and healing in different ways. It’s a psychological drama with so many serious and importing themes such as school violence, coming out, bullying, compassion, healing friendship, survivor’s guilt, gun control, innocence taken, PTSD, and first love. There is also a mystery to solve as the killers were not initially caught, which added extra intrigue and tension to the story.
Reading this story leaves you outraged, angry, sad, and frightened for our characters, but it also leaves you with hope at the end — that Brian and Landon, through their love, will be okay. So while this story is indeed gut-wrench and brutal, it is also beautiful in many ways. One of the more emotional elements in the story were Brian’s poems, which made me misty-eyed on a couple of occasions.
Yes, this is a painful story, but there’s a lot of beauty and heart to it as well. So if you have the fortitude to take on a story such as this one, you may find it as rewarding as I did. If you have PTSD, however, proceed with caution, as many people may find this too triggering.
All in all, I’m so glad this story came to my attention. I admit, I put off reading it for quite some time because of the heavy subject matter but ultimately, I’m glad that I finally picked it up. I’ve enjoyed every book that I’ve read by this author, and this one was no exception, though the author’s impressive writing skills really shone through in the story. Not every author has the writing chops to pull off what Easton did here.