Four Three Two One – Courtney Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 13 November 2018
Golden “Go” Jennings wasn’t supposed to be on Bus 21 the day it blew up in New York City. Neither was her boyfriend, Chandler. But they were. And so was Rudy, a cute stranger whom Go shared a connection with the night before. And Caroline, a girl whose silence ended up costing nineteen people their lives.
Though it’s been a year since the bombing, Go isn’t any closer to getting over what happened. Since Chan shuts down every time Go brings that day up, she decides to reach out to Rudy. Just like that, the two fall right back into their easy, deep connection. Facing the past head-on with Rudy has opened up a small window of healing Go never thought was possible. So she makes an impulsive decision: Round up the rest of the survivors and head to New York City. There they will board an art installation made of the charred remnants of Bus 21.
But things are never easy when it comes to rehashing the past. Uniting the four stirs up conflicting feelings of anger and forgiveness and shows them that, although they all survived, they may still need saving.
Take an author who is excellent at writing powerful stories about heartbreaking situations. Add a plot line about a bombing, abusive relationships, recovery journeys and the power of human togetherness. Drop in five character: four survivors and one along for the ride. Stir together and shake a little. With that recipe it’s no wonder that Four Three Two One is an incredibly powerful and emotive story of surviving, overcoming insurmountable odds, and forgiving yourself.
Golden Jennings is one of four survivors of a bus bombing. While she is eager to unpack the emotions and fallout from that fateful day in New York, her boyfriend, another survivor, won’t mention it at all. When one of the attending paramedics reconstructs the bus and creates a memorial for those who died in the blast, Golden decides to make the trip to New York again. With a new-found friend and the two other survivors, Golden begins a journey towards making new memories, facing old ones and maybe even find some form of healing.
I absolutely adore Courtney Stevens’ writing and novels. Time and time again she produces stories that grip me as a reader, delight me as a librarian because I know this too will be a book that will be handed from reader to eager reader, and make me proud to be human.
The majority of Four Three Two One is written from Golden’s perspective, after the bombing. There are a few extra sections written from fellow bomb survivor, Caroline. These additions offer insight into what happened before the bomb and after and Caroline’s tumultuous feelings and current state of mind. It is through Caroline that we readers also gain insight into the bomber himself and the damage he caused that reached far beyond the bus bombing.
While terribly sad and traumatic, in true Courtney Stevens style, Four Three Two One is an uplifting and often humorous novel. It is superbly written, scattering enough details throughout the story to keep readers totally engaged, but leaving some pretty big reveals for the conclusion.
Family, relationships and romance all play their part in Four Three Two One. Diverse and complex characters, topical themes and stunning writing come together to make a novel that is a must-read YA contemporary and a must-have for all library shelves.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Bombings, New York, relationships, friendship, grief, guilt, road trip, memorials, emotional abuse, physical abuse, family, communes.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: References to violence, physical abuse, bombs, blood and injury. Vague references to sexual relationships. Coarse language, f*** (5), sh** (17), as***** (7), pi** (7), di** (10), bi*** (6).
Published: 13 November 2018 by HarperTeen.
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 400 pages.