Three Shots

“This book bleeds directly from the vein of sorrow I have, that you have, springing from a world drowning in grief… I want you to read this book because for a brief moment it sucked the poison from my body. It stared down the grief that is so easy to ignore or numb or procrastinate and it said, here, let me hold this for a bit.”   Matt Gill, YA dude books (



Daniel Valdez loves skateboarding with his friend, Gracie. Sometimes he even wonders if they can be more than friends. Then Gracie’s mother kills her two children before turning the gun on herself. As grief counselors swoop into his high school and the whole community reels from the horrific deaths, Daniel drowns in his own pain and disbelief. What is his life without Gracie in it? As Daniel works through his grief, he’ll need to find a way to move forward without leaving Gracie behind.

The Announcement

I’m in English. First Hour.

Ten minutes before the bell, a student messenger knocks.
Comes inside, hands Mr. Chamberlain a message.

I see his face change as he reads it. We all feel it.

A long pause.

Mr. Chamberlain clears his throat. “I have some . . . terrible news.”

Is his hand shaking?

“I’m really sorry to tell you this.”

His voice so soft we all lean forward.

“Gracie Sullivan, her brother Abe, who’s a seventh grader at Hayden, and their mother have all passed away.”

A gasp.

“WHAT?” yells Anthony Yazzie. Lashonda Wilkes starts sobbing.

“Grief counselors will be made available immediately.”

More noise and talk.

Everyone grabs their phones.

But all I hear is my own heartbeat in my ears.

Pounding. Pounding. Pounding.


This book grew out of three cases of domestic violence that happened in my local community. Each case was so shocking that it drew a lot of media attention. In one case, a father killed his two children and his wife, then set the house on fire and disappeared. I happened to see the column of smoke while driving to work.

In another case, a woman knocked on my door on the day my son was graduating from high school. We’d hung a big banner saying Congratulations, Graduate! on our garage door, and she wanted to know where we’d bought it because she was planning a graduation party for her daughter. We chatted for several minutes–both of us proud moms. Two nights later, we heard what sounded like firecrackers. That sound was quickly followed by flashing lights, sirens, and helicopters flying over our neighborhood. The mother throwing the graduation party had been shot and killed by her ex.

The third episode provided the most inspiration for this novel. A mother killed her two children before committing suicide.  One of the kids had gone to my son’s school, though my son didn’t know him well.

In each case, I couldn’t stop thinking about how horrifying all these deaths were. They affected me deeply, even though I didn’t know any of the victims personally. I thought–if I feel this way, just imagine how those who knew them well must feel.

Losing someone you love is always painful, but when their deaths are violent and sudden, it feels like something you can’t survive. Daniel’s journey was one of the toughest I’ve written.

Purchase this book at these retailers