How quiet the bells of heaven must be, cold with stars who cannot rhyme their brilliance to our weapons. What rouses our lives each moment? Nothing but life dares dying. from "26," a poem by Rachel Eliza Griffiths (used with permission)
Dills and his mom have moved back to her hometown, looking to start again. He can’t talk about the day his stepdad Jesse came into the Wilkson Middle School library and opened fire. The memories are simply too raw. Plus, it’s hard to think about how many lives Jesse stole and the families he tore apart. Yet Dills doesn’t think he's a monster. Before Jesse became the Wilkson Shooter, he was just a Hero Stepdad, a haunted combat vet who loved his family as fiercely as he fought his demons.
And Dills still loves him.
Months after the move, Dills starts hearing Jesse telling him to come home. But Jesse tried to kill himself after the shooting and is wasting away in a Wilkson hospital bed, so Dills knows that the voice is probably just a product of his own bruised psyche. But what if it isn’t? What if Jesse is somehow reaching out to the only person who could possibly listen? Dills has go back. He owes it to Jesse. To himself. Even if there are no answers to be found.