Chapters 10–16

This harrowing novel provides a minute-by-minute account of a school shooting.
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. poised
    marked by balance or equilibrium and readiness for action
    We’re poised for flight, but there’s nowhere to go.
  2. onslaught
    a rapid and continuous outpouring
    He’s alive.
    He could get us out of here.
    The sudden onslaught of hope makes me dizzy.
  3. surreptitiously
    in a secretive manner
    Surreptitiously, I scan the area around me. No one has eyes for anyone but Tyler—and Autumn.
  4. staunch
    firm and dependable especially in loyalty
    I keep my eyes staunchly on Ty and try to ignore the people around me.
  5. stead
    the place properly occupied or served by another
    I clear my throat again before Tyler can shoot another student in my stead.
  6. convey
    serve as a means for expressing something
    How the hell do I convey “I came back for you” in knocks? How do I tell her I will get her out of there?
  7. chasm
    a deep opening in the earth's surface
    If I could claw through the door, I would. I bite my lip to keep from screaming. We might as well be divided by a chasm—me crouching on the cold linoleum and her inside on the worn carpet.
  8. shackle
    a U-shaped bar that can be used to fasten something
    I reach for the hammer. The alternative to picking the lock is forcing it. If I hit the shackle just right, it should spring open.
  9. slew
    a large number or amount or extent
    We had a whole slew of car fires a couple years ago.
  10. debrief
    elicit a report from someone about a mission, job, or event
    “I’m not really supposed to talk to you about this. One of our deputies will debrief you as soon as we’ve set up the perimeter.”
  11. retrospect
    contemplation of things past
    In retrospect, neither Dad nor I knew what Ty meant. I thought he planned to put things right with Tomás and with Claire.
  12. gaunt
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    A junior slumps against the wall, his face gaunt, blood pooling from a wound to his shoulder.
  13. devoid
    completely wanting or lacking
    His gaze is devoid of feeling, emotion—humanity.
  14. wry
    humorously sarcastic or mocking
    “We’ll be setting up an emergency response center in town so you’ll have somewhere to go.” At this, her smile is a little wry, and for the first time, she sounds like a worried older sister, not a police officer following protocol.
  15. protocol
    code of correct conduct
    “We’ll be setting up an emergency response center in town so you’ll have somewhere to go.” At this, her smile is a little wry, and for the first time, she sounds like a worried older sister, not a police officer following protocol.
  16. curt
    speaking in a terse, rude, or abrupt way
    The frown on her freckled face fades, and her voice trails off. With a curt nod, she turns back toward the windshield.
  17. matinee
    a theatrical performance held during the daytime
    For Autumn’s fifteenth birthday, Mrs. Browne took Autumn and me to Birmingham to see a matinee.
  18. blissful
    completely happy and contented
    But Autumn and I were still blissfully ignorant of all that was coming. She was so excited to see The Nutcracker that she talked about it for days. I was far more excited about seeing Birmingham and going to dinner at a fancy restaurant.
  19. conspicuous
    obvious to the eye or mind
    Timing is everything. If we open the doors too wide, it’ll be conspicuous. If we’re too slow, everyone won’t get out.
  20. defiantly
    in a rebellious manner
    Tyler raises his hand and strikes her a second time. She squares her shoulders and looks up at him defiantly.
  21. sprawling
    spreading out in different directions
    Most of the classrooms are on the sprawling ground floor, with the library, science rooms, and study halls up on a smaller second floor.
  22. cordon
    a series of sentinels or posts enclosing some place or thing
    Our police car is ushered toward an area cordoned off by cones and caution tape.
  23. naive
    marked by or showing unaffected simplicity
    You’re so naive. Don’t believe everything people tell you. There’s always more to the story.
  24. imposing
    impressive in appearance
    It’s not just the gun that makes him imposing. He’s dressed as if he is going to a formal event.
  25. impromptu
    with little or no preparation or forethought
    I haven’t warmed up, and the tension in my shoulders and legs makes it almost impossible to move. Behind Ty, the faces of my impromptu audience are far clearer than they should be—full of anger and judgment.
  26. peal
    a deep prolonged sound
    Three-year-old Alex held on to Ty’s hair when he carried her around on his shoulders and clung to his hand whenever he set her down. Peals of laughter lit up our house for the first time since Mom died.
  27. infallible
    incapable of failure or error
    Whenever she zones out, the best thing to do is give her specific tasks, small tasks—feed the dogs, collect eggs, keep an eye on the oven while the cookies we made together bake. It’s not infallible, but when she feels disoriented and overwhelmed, those tasks keep her from panicking.
  28. wan
    lacking vitality as from weariness or illness or unhappiness
    Behind him, Esther sits with Avery, who has her leg held high and a bandage around her ankle. They smile wanly.
  29. euphoria
    a feeling of great elation
    Now she’s here. And safe. Euphoria tugs at my lips.
  30. reverie
    absentminded dreaming while awake
    I expect him to snap after I finish my monologue. Instead he hesitates and blinks, as if awakening from a reverie.
  31. prod
    urge on; cause to act
    “We can’t get a clear picture of Tyler’s motivation, so we are looking for anyone who might know him well. We’ve sent a team to his house, but we are looking for a student perspective too,” Deputy Lee prods.
  32. welt
    a raised mark on the skin
    “Ty had bruises. He wouldn’t talk about it, but it wasn’t because of the fights. They were welts, like someone hit him. I think his dad did.”
  33. triage
    sorting and allocating aid on the basis of need
    “I’m sorry. We need you to stay off to the side while we deal with the situation and set up a triage system.”
  34. emanate
    proceed or issue forth, as from a source
    A new message emanates from Deputy Lee’s radio.
  35. ricochet
    spring back; spring away from an impact
    Screams ricochet as bullets land around us
  36. perforate
    pass into or through, often by overcoming resistance
    A freshman beside us stumbles and trips, sliding against the seat when a bullet perforates her neck.
  37. render
    show in, or as in, a picture
    But when I scan the crowd, all the faces blur together, an Impressionist rendering of despair.
  38. inkling
    a slight suggestion or vague understanding
    The thunderstorm of bullets shatters any inkling of hope.
  39. superlative
    the highest level or degree attainable
    Anytime I feel as if there are no more superlatives, that we’ve reached the worst, Ty proves me wrong.
  40. putrid
    in an advanced state of decomposition and having a foul odor
    And I breathe in the too-familiar scent of expensive cologne and putrid sweat.
Created on March 20, 2020 (updated March 25, 2020)

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