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Day One by Abigail Dean

Day One by Abilgail Dean

Abigail Dean burst onto the thriller scene with her debut novel Girl A. She returns with a possibly less page-turningly thrilling but complex, terrifying and thought provoking follow up Day One. Day One is a fictionalised account of the Sandy Hook massacre or primary school students in America in 2012. Dean has translated that story into an English context and in doing so universalises the issues surrounding the event and its aftermath and explores the prevalent social media forces that shaped the narrative and impacted on the victims and their families following that event.

The Day One of the title is an event at the Stonesmere local primary school where the student put on a performance for their parents and children who will be starting the school in the next year. The day becomes a horrific memory due to a local who enters the hall and kills many of the grade 1 students and their teacher. The narrative focusses on Marty, daughter of the well loved teacher who was killed trying to protect her students, and Trent who once had once known the shooter and gets caught up in the on-line conspiracy theories that grow around the event.

Day One is a tough novel. Dean explores the impact of a tragedy on a small town, the splits and the recriminations that follow an event that no one can really fathom. But she also looks at how the internet feeds conspiracy theories and the politicians and pundits who use the slightest inconsistencies in the statements and behaviour of traumatised victims to their advantage. As with Sandy Hook, this includes claims that the whole event was faked, that the children did not really exist and that the parents were actually actors. None of this is helped by Marty who is front and centre in the media but is also hiding something.

One of the effective techniques in Day One is for Dean to keep going back to the events of the day from different perspectives. The reader is left in no doubt from page one that the event happened. So while this continually returning to the crime in some way slows the novel down it serves as the important purpose of constant reminder to the reader that the tragedy involved real people. And that these are the people that the conspiracy theorists are trying to belittle and dehumanise.

Day One is a compelling, compassionate exploration of one of the darkest events of the last decade. By focussing on Marty and Trent Dean dives into the complexity of both sides. Of the survivors who want the deaths of their loved ones to mean something and of the people drawn slowly down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories until they cannot see any option but to keep pushing forward with their claims. This is an important novel, joining other recent releases like Dervla McTiernan’s What Happened to Nina? (also loosely based on a true story) to shine a critical light on the potentially destructive side of social media.

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Wrap Up

Day One by Abigail Dean



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