A review by Nalini Haynes
21 year old Kristy lives in a trailer park in Florida, USA, with her parents and works at a local department store owned by her ex’s parents. Kristy’s ex, Max, broke up with her upon graduation before leaving for college. Kristy had no expectations of attending college because she “wasn’t academically inclined”: she had undiagnosed dyslexia. But she loves documentaries, soaking them up like a sponge. Kristy’s “shot” comes when Mara, a television producer, visits their home town and decides to cast Kristy in a particularly brutal reality television series called – you guessed it – The Shot.
In the beginning I absolutely LOATHED Kristy. She hates her best friend, she hates her parents for being disabled and she only loves her dog Mercy because, after losing a leg, Mercy seemed more determined to triumph (aka run faster) than ever. While I was in my hating Kristy phase I nearly quit reading because of what I perceived as inconsistencies: Kristy was in daycare aged 4 while her parents worked but also lived in a trailer park, she moved to the burbs aged 7 but somehow seemed to have always lived in the trailer park. But there’s no mention of moving back.
I very nearly quit the book. My better angel sat on my shoulder and prodded me to continue. I had a sixth sense about this book, possibly because the publicist’s emails built expectations.
Don’t be like me.
READ THIS BOOK.
In as few sittings as possible.
If you’ve read the blurb you know The Shot is about reality TV, about entertainment vs exploitation. In the early chapters while building Kristy’s character, shark attacks threaten innocent people. A girl is eaten alive.
Then Mara has lipstick, like blood, on her teeth.
Yeah, nothing to see here.
Representation of disability
At first I loathed Brown’s representation of disability despite realizing she was building Kristy into a thoroughly unlikeable character who didn’t like herself or her own life. Basically, Brown established motivation for Kristy to take this risk.
Even so, it took Brown’s discussion of Kristy’s dyslexia and a turning point in Kristy’s relationship with her parents to really reconcile me to Brown’s representation of disability. I can’t say more without huge spoilers. But I end reconciled with Brown’s representation in the context of so many issues – so many minefields – navigated in The Shot.
Layers, onion boy!
Brown develops her characters, giving them depth. Layers. Like onions. As in Shrek. Part of that is, like Chen in Love and Resistance, creating justification (however tenuous) in the character’s mind no matter how awful they are and no matter what they are doing to destroy other people. (Love and Resistance will be published in July 2023 so my review will be available here on about July 1.)
Kristy faces mutilating surgery in The Shot. After Brown described the horrendous deformities that would be inflicted upon Kristy in the name of “beautification”, I needed a break. A cleanse, if you will. So I picked up Love and Resistance. And, over the next day, alternated between books. At one point I was angry with BOTH authors. I DO NOT WANT TO BE SYMPATHETIC TO VILLAINOUS EVIL CHARACTERS, OKAY THANKS!!!
However, both authors handle their villains expertly, giving their characters agency, making choices not just in response to events but choices pertaining to who they want to be in this world.
I could talk about both these books ad infinitum. Submission for my walking book club is imminent because I want to talk to others about these stories. But I’ll stop raving now because I risk spoiling the story for those who have not yet read them.
Suffice to say, I love The Shot and I highly recommend reading it. The depth of characters and the breadth of issues make it an excellent choice for a book club. Kristy is 21 when the story opens so it’s not technically YA and yet I highly recommend this novel for English literature classes. Discussion may help teens engage with issues and, potentially, help them shield themselves from exploitation in the future.
I also highly recommend Love and Resistance although they are substantively different books: L&R is a YA set in high school where the protagonist deals with, among other things, racism. Her telling had me in tears because I relate as a person with albinism.
If you’re looking for another book that feels a bit more like The Shot, I highly recommend Seven Sisters by Katherine Kovacic. She had me rooting for the murdering protagonists, I kid you not!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Imprint: Macmillan Australia (PanMacmillan)
Format: Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Category: Fiction, Modern & contemporary fiction, social issues, disability, exploitation