A cop killed Moss's father merely for walking out of a convenience store at the wrong time. Since then, Moss goes to therapy to deal with crippling panic attacks, anxiety and depression. He already feels uncomfortable that his high school has a police officer,
Tropes for this book include:
- Bittersweet Ending: Moss finally gets justice when the cop who killed his father and Javier turns himself in and apologizes, with the metal detectors being uninstalled but the dead are still dead, Reg's leg is beyond repair, and Esperanza's parents don't understand why they are part of the problem.
- Bullying the Disabled: The Resources Officers goes after Shawna, an epileptic, when he finds her pills in her locker and induces a seizure in her. Another tosses Reg into the metal detectors when he's merely asking if the sensors will affect his pins. This ends up permanently crippling Reg.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Moss accuses the cop who murdered his father and Javier of this.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked; when the assistant principal brings plans for the magnets and makes a joke about how earbuds kept some of the students from throwing up, Moss calls him out for making light of it. It's the administration's fault that the detectors were brought in the first place, hurting their students and that Javier died.
- Good Parents: Wanda tries to be there for Moss, supports his budding relationship with Javier, and helps him when he wants to protest the metal detectors for Reg's and the other students' sake.
- Happily Adopted: Explored. Esperanza never knew her birth parents, but her adopted ones love her. They just are clueless about their privilege.
- Kick the Dog:
- The school "Resources Officer" has a habit of picking up students by the throat to make them comply.
- The cops hurt a paramedic who merely asks that they give medical attention to Wanda.
- Loose Lips: Esperanza telling her parents about the walkout lead to her father telling the principal, who in turn tells the police and "smugly" sends out a memo warning a teacher. No one at the church is happy, least of all Esperanza and Moss. Moss then later point-blank asks Esperanza to not listen in on new strategy.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: It's implied that the cops injuring an NBC reporter and killing Hayley, a white woman, during Moss's impromptu protest lead to a high amount of bad publicity, which means they let Moss and Wanda go with no charges. The city also offers a public apology and promises to remove the metal detectors.
- Police Are Useless: Taken to the logical, most realistic extreme. Every subsequent action by the police in Oakland show that they're making the situation worse in the school and in the community.
- Police Brutality: The novel starts two years after Moss loses his father to a shooting that was racially motivated. It goes From Bad to Worse.
- Unwitting Test Subject: A horrifying one; it's revealed that the cops are testing military technology meant for Aghanistan terrorists on the students, using the school for its "pilot program".