A 2007 novel by Jodi Picoult
The small town of Sterling, New Hampshire, is torn apart by a school shooting committed by one of its students, Peter Houghton, who snapped after years of bullying. In the aftermath, the victims and their families find themselves isolated from everyone. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge assigned to the case, who should be the best witness, is unable to remember her boyfriend being murdered in front of her; her mother, Alex, struggles over whether or not to remain sitting on the case; Jordan McAfee takes Peter's case and finds himself overwhelmed by the amounts of evidence against his client. Through it all, everyone asks whose fault the shooting is: does blame lie with Peter, or with the people who pushed him over the edge?
- Axes at School: Or, guns and bombs.
- Big Brother Bully: Joey was incredibly abusive to Peter; it's not shown whether he acted this way towards other students.
- Break the Cutie: Basically, Peter's whole life.
- Continuity Nod: Jordan McAfee from The Pact and Salem Falls returns as Peter's attorney, and Patrick Ducharme from Perfect Match returns as the lead detective on the shooting.
- Disappeared Dad: Josie's father.
- The Dog Bites Back: Josie's murder of Matt.
- Domestic Abuse: Matt is horribly abusive to Josie, who puts up with it because she doesn't know who she is without him anymore.
- Driven to Suicide: The mother of one of the victims walks into a gun shop, takes a gun, and shoots herself. A month after his conviction, Peter commits suicide in his jail cell.
- It's also shown early on that Josie has a collection of pills gathered up, as a sort of back-up plan in her mind. After the shooting, she almost swallows them, but isn't able to go through with it.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight with Alex; she became pregnant through an affair with her law professor, Logan Rourke, and was encouraged by him to abort, but found herself unable to go through with it. Subverted with Josie; she becomes pregnant with Matt's child but doesn't want to go to a clinic to have an abortion done, because that would involve telling her mother. Instead, she manually induces a miscarriage.
- Isolation Despondency: As a child, Peter is forbidden to contact Josie after the two of them are caught playing with guns.
- Jerkass: Sterling High is full of them.
- Parental Favoritism: Lewis and Lacey very clearly favor their older, golden boy son Joey over Peter.
- Stepford Smiler: Josie.
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Peter to Josie.
- The Unfavorite: Peter.