Book: Damage Done
Author: Amanda Panitch
Age Range: 14 and up
Damage Done is a brand new young adult thriller by Amanda Panitch. It's told from the first person viewpoint of Lucy Black, who used to be known as Julia Vann. Julia's life changed forever when her twin brother Ryan killed 11 people in their school's band room. Due to intense media scrutiny (and very unhappy neighbors), Julia and her parents changed their names and moved from northern to southern California. As Lucy, Julia is managing pretty well, with a best friend and a possible love interest. But everything threatens to unravel when a figure from her past appears outside of her new high school. Danger ensues.
Damage Done is both fascinating and disturbing. I couldn't put it down, reading it over a day or so, and staying up late to finish (something I hardly ever do these days). Lucy reveals details about her brother through her memories, indicating that his tendencies as a sociopath were apparent from a very early age. She expresses guilt at having defended him for earlier incidents (one involving the death of a puppy), but her love for Ryan is also clear. Less clear, but endlessly intriguing, are hints about Lucy herself, and about their rather dysfunctional parents. Panitch also intersperses sections from the unofficial journal of Ryan's psychologist (dating back to the puppy incident). These are revealing in a different way, particularly of Dr. Spence's gross incompetence.
I did find some of the details of Damage Done implausible or ill-defined. What does her father do for a job after he changes his own identity? What about school and immunization records? The family is not in an official witness protection program - just trying to stay under the radar. And ... some other details that I won't share, in the interest of not spoiling the story for anyone.
Still, Panitch does a nice job of balancing retrospective analysis of the events leading up to the school shooting against current action, as Lucy faces new threats. There is even a rather sweet love interest to lighten the tone a bit.
Damage Done is compelling, but because of violent and disturbing content, I would only recommend it for high school and adult readers, and not for younger teens. [And I'm not sure if I would personally put a book about a school shooting in a school library, but luckily I don't have to make such decisions.] People who enjoy puzzling out events from clues, and enjoy suspense, will want to give Damage Done a look. It won't leave you with an upbeat feeling, but it is certainly not a book that you'll forget in a hurry.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: July 21, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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