In almost every book that has teens suffering through a violent situation, everyone ends up confessing their feeling for basically no reason. Unfortunately, this book has that trope too. But not all hope is lost.
Seven kids get stuck in a school after a series of bombs go off. As the kids gain more and more info as they try to escape, they realize that there’s still some bombs in the school left. And someone inside is detonating them.
When I read the reviews on Goodreads a lot of people seemed to be praising Rashid as a character. A lot of these people also were not Muslim – American. I had a lot of issues with Rashid right off the bat. The way he was written to be suspicious even though he was innocent. The info dumping of detail to show how religious he was at the beginning. It was unnecessary and seemed forced. But more importantly, Rashid didn’t seem realistic. I’ve met a lot of Muslim men and boys and I’ve never met a single man who has not cut of his beard for religious reasons. Rashid (who I’m pretty sure was born in America but I can’t remember right now) does not cut off his beard for religious reasons and thats what makes him “stand out”. This seems more like a stereotype than an actual thing Muslim teens do. Rashid’s Muslim tendencies come out only when its relevant to the plot. Rashid also prays in school which is not unlikely just not in the same level of religiousness the rest of the book is. If Rashid was a religious character he would literally be praying all throughout the entire duration of these events, at least in his head. But Rashid only prayed out loud which was weird. Rashid had a lot of potential for exploring issues of islamaphobia but it got overshadowed by the awful portrayal.
The rest of the characters seemed one sided. I don’t think we needed to know their backstories if there was no substantial character development. Cas really annoyed me as a character because he experiences seemed so weirdly simplistic. Bullying is definitely a real problem and from what I understand she was bullied for being fat but the way she explained it was just more “they bully me because I’m different” which is vague. “Different” could mean that you don’t wear makeup or that you’re a person of color. Everyone was written as angry which was also really weird because what are the chances that the people you’re stuck with are all angry and angsty like you? Having a gay person of color was a right step though. I wish all these characters had actual character development instead of just being vehicles for the suspense and story to take place. (On a side note I hate the “popular but broken” trope so much because its so rare in real life.)
The perpetrators motives were just very vague and outlandish. I low-key think it would’ve been better for the writer to just have kept us in the dark than try to come up with a viable reason for the heinous act committed.
The plot itself seemed less like a critique of society and more of suspenseful novel. I don’t think I had a different view of the issue after. What really saved the entire book was the question of privacy and how we should address the problem. (Although the idea behind giving administrators your passwords to your social media accounts if you’re deemed a threat is so dumb because why don’t you just show it to them? Like you can just show your account?)
Final Thoughts: Read for a suspenseful novel but not a meaningful one.