by Eli Easton
You’ll make it out of here, Brian. I swear.
I had everything—school quarterback, popular with girls, and my dad was proud of me. I told myself it didn’t matter no one knew the real me. And then I nearly died. Landon saved my life. He’s the bravest guy I know. He came out a few years ago, proud and fierce, and he ran into gunfire to help others. Me, I’m a mess. Can’t even stand to be in a room with the curtains open. But here’s the thing about losing it all: You get a chance to start over and be someone new. Only how can I move on when the two shooters who attacked our school were never caught? And why do I feel like I’m still in the crosshairs?
Will you kiss me?
When I came across Brian Marshall,the hottest guy in school, dying on the cafeteria floor, I did what anyone would do. I tried to save him. His request surprised me, but I figured he needed comfort, so I kissed him on the forehead. When he survived and came back to school, he was broken in body and mind. He still needed me, and soon we were unlikely besties. But what I saw at school that day woke me up. I want to demand action on gun control, lead protests, raise my fist. I’ll tear the world down if I have to. And if I can get the man of my dreams and save the world at the same time? I’ll take it. Only I didn’t understand that the horror at Jefferson Waller High wasn’t over.
“Help. Help me.”
The words were low, and they snapped me out of the fog. I looked around. Over by the water fountain was a guy lying on his side on the floor. He was looking at me. He said it again. “Help me. Please.”
A fresh wave of adrenaline and sorrow washed through me. Oh God. It was Brian Marshall. Yesterday, he’d been the picture of youth and glowing health. Now he lay on his side, trying to raise his head off the floor to look at me. His bloody hands clutched his shirt. His face was white, so damn white, and a red pool was growing from his body like an oil spill.
I pushed myself up and staggered over to him. I fell to my knees beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m here. Can you lie back? Let me help you.”
Brian rolled onto his back with a groan of pain. But he looked up at me with his dark blue eyes filled with so much relief and trust. Like he just didn’t want to be alone.
Like he didn’t want to die alone.
Hot, sour anger rose up in me again. This shouldn’t be happening. Not to Brian, not to any of them. But anger wouldn’t help right now. I had to get it together. I had to help him. My eyes stung.
“It’s okay. You’re gonna be all right.” I tried to sound confident, but my voice broke.
He was clutching his stomach on the lower left side, his hands bloody and shaking like crazy. Fresh, dark red blood oozed through his fingers.
I gently pulled his hands away and lifted the bloody shirt. I had to fight not to retch. He’d been shot in the left side, above the visible curve of his hip bone. There was a blown-out area the size of a ping-pong ball. Through the gore I saw a glimpse of something shiny and tubular. Internal organs.
Oh my God.
Don’t look. Don’t think about it. Just help him.
I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know much about gut wounds except that he probably had internal bleeding and that it could be fatal. But he wasn’t shot in the heart or lungs, so he had a chance. Except for the bleeding. There was way too much blood.
I wished I’d taken a more extensive first-aid class. I wished I knew exactly what to do to save him. I remembered, from the cop shows my mom loved, that they always put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. I looked around but didn’t see anything close by, so I tore my T-shirt over my head, rolled it into a ball, and pressed it to Brian’s wound.
He cried out in pain and tried to double up. But he didn’t push my hand away.
“Sorry, I’m so sorry,” I said. “But I have to stop the bleeding.”
“Yeah,” Brian grunted, giving a growl of agony. He made himself relax back to the floor, breathing hard through his mouth. “I think it’s coming out the back too.” His teeth chattered.
“Right.” If the bullet went all the way through him, there’d be two wounds. I didn’t have anything left to use, but a few feet away there was a soft-looking pink purse. With silent apologies to the owner, who I hoped was still alive, I left him long enough to grab it. I pushed it under him, hoping it would stop the blood, and went back to pressing my T-shirt into his stomach with both hands.
“You’re gonna be all right, I swear to God.” My voice was firmer now. Resolute.
Brian looked up at me, his eyes full of pain and fear. Of doubt.
“Screw that, Brian. You are gonna make it,” I told him in a bossy tone, rage giving it an edge. “Don’t you hear the sirens? They’re already on their way.”
It was weird because I hadn’t been consciously aware of sirens, but as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized they were true. I heard sirens. They were coming.
“Cops, ambulances, fire department—they’re gonna be here in just a minute. You’ll make it out of here, Brian. I swear.”
I pressed the wound with both hands, leaning close. But Brian didn’t respond. His eyes were getting a little glassy, and he looked over my shoulder at nothing.
He blinked and focused on my face.
When you have a topic like school shootings the focus of a story, it can be tough for many people to read. The subject matter is disturbing on so many levels, and for some readers pushes buttons that they don’t ever want to be pushed. For me, living just under 15 miles from the school where the Parkland shooting took place, it’s common to see #MSDStrong bumper stickers and magnets on cars, or people wearing t-shirts in support of the school that’s right here in our community. While I may not have children of my own, I do have some in my family—and the thought that this could happen to one of them is terrifying.
In Boy Shattered, the author puts you right in the thick of things with a depiction that goes beyond eerie, and might have you thinking twice about not just the possibilities in other schools, but in ANY setting where you don’t have total control of your own surroundings. Going through that from both Landon and Brian’s points of view (especially Brian’s) made for a highly emotional read—not just regarding the shooting itself, but also how it affects them both afterward.
There’s a strong line of tension running through the book until close to the end since resolution is not immediate for the victims, something that is a powerful factor in Brian’s recovery. There’s even more drama added in the form of conflict with Brian’s father and his beliefs (the word that comes to my mind is “infuriating”. But alongside all that is the friendship and eventually romantic relationship that develops between Brian and Landon, and there’s an intensity between them that is supercharged thanks to the event that brought them together.
You cannot read this book and come away from it unaffected. The subject matter is relevant and unfortunately ongoing in our lives today, and for some readers it may hit too close to home to be comfortable. Be prepared for a brutal, uncensored eyewitness look at one of the horrors of our current society…but also know that the author shows hope and strength in the midst of it all.
5 stars, full stop. This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language, sexual content, and scenes of a graphic and disturbing nature depicting a school shooting. This is a heavy read, just know that going in (and you’ll probably want to have something light and fluffy queued up to read next after it).
The narration: I really enjoyed listening to Tristan Josiah’s narration of this book. The emotions were spot-on, and there was good differentiation in the character voices. I felt just as much emotion from the events as they occurred in the story when listening to the audio version as I did when reading the ebook. 5 stars for the narration!
Enter the Giveaway:
To celebrate the audio release of Boy Shattered, Eli is giving away an Audible Code for her other YA Story, Superhero.
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win!
About the Author:
Coming from a background in computer game design, Eli has written over 35 books in m/m romance since 2013. The Mating of Michael (2014) and A Second Harvest (2016) both won The William Neale Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance, and Eli’s books have won many awards from the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Reader’s Choice Awards. She is best known for her Christmas romances, the Howl at the Moon series of rom coms featuring dog shifters, and her Sex in Seattle series, which revolves around a sex clinic in Seattle.
Connect with Eli: