Author: Kat Spears
Publisher by: St. Martin's Griffin
Published on: September 13, 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Page Count: 320
Luke Grayson's life might as well be over when he's forced to go live in rural Tennessee with his Baptist pastor father. His reputation as a troublemaker has followed him there, and as an outsider, Luke is automatically under suspicion by everyone from the principal at his new school to the local police chief. His social life is no better. The new kid in town is an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak who has the entire community of Ashland under his thumb.
But things go topsy-turvy when a freak accident removes Grant from the top of the social pyramid, replacing him with Luke. This fish out of water has suddenly gone from social outcast to hero in a matter of twenty-four hours. For the students who have lived in fear of Grant all their lives, this is a welcome change. But Luke’s new found fame comes with a price. Nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker except for Luke, and the longer he keeps living the lie, the more like Grant Parker he becomes.
“Jesus said a man should turn the other cheek…. but Jesus never had to go to high school in a small town.”
The title of The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker is what initially brought my attention to this book. I really wanted to know if it was a literal or figurative phrase. I was pleasantly surprised with this story. It was a fast paced, well written story that centered on the daily high school life of Luke Grayson. It some ways the story reminded me of Mean Girls but, well you know with dudes and sans the burn book.
“I didn’t aspire to be anything other than average.”
Having moved from Washington D.C. to the po-dunk town of Ashland, Tennessee, Luke was the new kid from “the big city”. It was his first time living with his preacher father and his step mom/the Stepford wife Doris. Ashland was a conservative town that was all about church, football, and small town gossip.. Luke was the complete opposite of that. He was an average 17 year old, he wasn’t athletic, he was agnostic, he cursed, and try as he might, trouble seemed to just follow him. There wasn’t anything truly exceptional about his charachter but I liked him most of the time. I enjoyed his bit of snark. Plus, I liked being inside of Luke’s head.
“He ignored the needs of the students at Wakefield while demanding their worship and sacrifice.”
Even though Luke claimed he wanted to be invisible at his new school, he also wanted to feel like someone important. I understood his logic. Initially he was intrigued by Grant Parker and his offer of friendship. To me Grant, was slimy from the first moment his charachter entered the pages. He was the quintessential self entitled rich kid/ star athlete. He had some likability to him but he was mainly a jerk. He was able to get away with intimidating most of the students because of who his dad was.
The more Luke and Grant interact, the more the things start changing. A freak accident, a misunderstanding, and a few lies by omission, all make Luke the new star of the school. With that, Luke slowly becomes the type of person Grant was. It was interesting to see how quickly teen-aged loyalty and popularity could switch from person to another. Luke started treating his few friends and the one decent girl who liked him, like crap. I wanted shake sense into him. There was some charachter growth in the end, which was much needed with these characters. I do feel the end was a bit rushed though. I liked the story and I would check out this author again.
“If you’ve ever lived through a tragedy, you know they the first road towards crazy is imagining all the ways that things could have happened differently.”
A new student might have gone unnoticed for days or weeks (maybe months if he played his cards right) at my old school. Washington, DC, was such a transient city that people were always coming and going. But in Ashland, I might as well have been wearing a bell announcing myself as a leper. People stared and spoke in low voices to each other as I passed in the hallway.
If I heard laughter, I assumed it was directed toward me, as if everything about me was under scrutiny—my clothes, my hair, the way I walked, the Mount Vesuvius–like stress pimple that had erupted on my chin that morning.
The only thing I had going for me, maybe, was that my appearance was almost depressingly average. I might as well have been wallpaper. And that was exactly the way I wanted it—to blend into the background and go unnoticed.
I managed to ﬁnd the oﬃce without asking anyone for directions, and the receptionist greeted me in a southern drawl so outrageous it seemed like it had to be a put-on.
“I’m Luke Grayson,” I said. “I’m new here.” Captain Ob- vious. As a stranger in Ashland, I stuck out like a boner in sweatpants.
“Well,” she said, the word gusting out as she folded her hands on the desk and pressed them into her bosom, “I go to your daddy’s church, and I never knew anything about Pastor Grayson having a son until we got word you were coming. Of course, he’s such a busy man, what with all the goings-on we’ve had since Easter. Three funerals in as many months. Never a good sign if a church has more funerals than baptisms, wouldn’t you say?”
I wouldn’t, but I kept my mouth shut and tried to convey concern in my expression, though it was a lie. The tardy bell rang as she droned on about the business of my dad’s church, and I feigned interest, while in my mind all I could really focus on was the fact that I would now have to enter class late and be even more of a spectacle than I already was.
“Principal Sherman wants to have a quick visit with you before you start the day,” the receptionist said, once it was obvious I was going to fail miserably at making small talk, and then she picked up the receiver of the ancient desk phone.
As I was shown into the principal’s oﬃce he came around from behind his desk to shake my hand and ges- tured for me to take one of the hard-backed chairs, though a leather couch along one wall oﬀered a more comfortable option. He was middle-aged, with the paunch of a former football player, and his doughy hands clashed with the tai- lored suit he wore. His desk was an ocean of polished oak, and my chair was at least a few inches lower to the ground than his so that I felt small and insigniﬁcant sitting across from him. I disliked him immediately, feeling that he would have been more at home on a used-car lot than in a high school administration oﬃce. And once he started talking, I knew the disproportionate height of the chairs and the size of the desk were both power plays, his intention to make whoever sat across from him feel powerless.
“So, Mr. Grayson,” he said as he crossed one leg over the other, shot his cuﬀs, and twitched his hand to settle a heavy gold watch against a meaty wrist. “How are you set- tling in?”
“Uh. Fine, I guess.” My response came out as a wavering question since I wasn’t sure how well I should have settled in during the ﬁve minutes I had been at Wakeﬁeld High School.
He just nodded at my answer, as if it was the response he had been expecting but wasn’t really interested in whether it was true.
The ocean of wood between us housed only a phone and a pen holder with a faux-bronze nameplate on the front of it. The name leslie g. sherman was inscribed on the plaque. I wondered what the “G” stood for and how he felt about having a girl’s name. I could only assume the “G” stood for something worse than Leslie. I was distracted with trying to think of a name worse than Leslie that started with a “G”—Garﬁeld? Grover?—when he startled me with his at- tack run.
“Since it’s your ﬁrst day here I’m not going to make a federal case out of it, but we do have a student dress code.” He was looking so pointedly at my chest that I couldn’t help but steal a self-conscious glance at my Death Cab for Cutie T-shirt. My stepmom, Doris, had already made a federal case out of my shirt that morning at breakfast.
“Oh. Really?” I asked innocently.
“Yes. Really,” he said with such condescension that I wondered if he had kids of his own who hated him. “T-shirts with printed designs have been strictly forbidden since the Columbine tragedy.” His expression conveyed the very real concern that my T-shirt would inspire a Columbine- like incident.
“Okay,” I said as I tried to think of what shirts I owned
that didn’t include printed designs. Did a Georgetown Uni- versity sweatshirt count as a printed design? I wasn’t sure. But it didn’t seem the right time to ask.
“Mr. Grayson, I have a great deal of respect for your father,” the principal said, changing the subject abruptly. He paused in anticipation after he said this, waiting for an appropriate response. I was still shifting gears from Colum- bine and printed T-shirts and I wasn’t sure what an appro- priate response should be, so the pause dragged on—from awkward to painful.
Finally I said, “Thanks.” As if I was entitled to some credit for how respectable my father was.
“Ashland is a strong Christian community, as I’m sure you know since your father is a man of God.” I was start- ing to get the sense that he had practiced this speech ahead of time. Like he had an agenda and had worked out in his mind how to approach it in a roundabout way.
“Yes. Strong,” I said, feeling like an idiot as I said it.
My eyes wandered around the room as I tried to think of something clever to say to alleviate the impression that I was a moron. A large framed print hung on the wall behind the desk, the words the principal is my pal—that’s the principle we live by displayed in colorful block letters.
“I’ve been reviewing your records from your previous school,” he said as he reached forward to lift the papers in front of him, the implied threat made all the more menac- ing because it was an alarmingly thick stack of papers.
I wasn’t sure what to say. I decided to stay silent, not give anything away in case some things hadn’t been committed
to paper. Better to remain silent, not incriminate myself, than to start oﬀering up explanations.
“Your grades were . . . unexceptional,” he said, maybe still trying to be polite.
Unexceptional was putting it mildly, though I would often argue with my mom that a C average was just that—average. I didn’t aspire to be anything other than average.
I kept silent, not wanting to do anything that would extend my stay in his oﬃce.
“It seems that you also like to challenge authority, Mr. Grayson,” Leslie said as he frowned at the second sta- pled page of my permanent record.
“I went to an all-boys school when I lived in DC,” I said with an innocent shrug. “Pranks are just the usual there.”
“This seems much more serious than pranks.” He looked at me expectantly over the rims of his reading glasses. “These notes indicate that on one occasion there was personal injury to another student and property dam- age to the school. Does that seem like just an innocent prank to you, Mr. Grayson?”
I shifted in my seat as I tried to let my anger dissolve before responding. If I came across as snide and pissed, it would just make the situation worse. But it was hard—the way he called me Mr. Grayson, the way teachers do as if they are showing a sign of respect for students as grown people when really they are just patronizing us.
As I waited for the acid to dissipate from my tongue be- fore answering, I thought bitterly of Steve Moyo, my under-