Declan is his baseball team’s star pitcher until the day he carelessly shows off for a girl, climbs an insecure rock facing, and falls off, badly breaking his arm and damaging his hand. A combination of surgery, physical therapy, and rest ends his athletic career and strains his family’s already-precarious finances. While his friends continue to play sports and socialize, Declan stews at home in anger and plays video games, some of which are used by antisemitic and hate-mongering groups to recruit new members to their ranks. Declan, filled with rage and completely bored, is susceptible to their overtures and becomes part of one of these militia-style groups. He no longer identifies with his close friends, some of whom are Jewish. Declan sinks deeper into this new online world, going so far as to join the group in some of their violent and hateful activities. He adopts neo-Nazi imagery and terminology despite his twin sister’s efforts to remind him of who he is and where his roots lie.
Declan’s new friends plan an attack on a synagogue and he eventually realizes, too late, that he has taken too many steps into a horrifying world he cannot control. He can only accept his consequences and strive toward atonement. This portrait of a confused teen, ripe for manipulation, is worth reading and taking to heart. It highlights the many dangers that surround us and the importance of staying educated and vigilant.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.