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Divided: Book review of ‘To the Power of Three’ by Laura Lippman

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Kat Hartigan is on the verge of graduating from high school first in her class; off to Stanford in the fall. She is the type of girl that other girls dream of being; beautiful, wealthy, and genuinely well liked yet that does not save her from being shot to death in the girls’ restroom. Presumably her oldest friend is the one who shot her. Her best friend has also been injured with a bullet in the foot.

To the Power of Three is a mystery involving the complexity of a school shooting. Originally published in 2005, it feels a tad outdated only for the tragic circumstances that school shootings are almost so common that having only one student dead on the scene almost does not feel newsworthy.

The book covers most of a friendship lifespan involving three girls. It starts when the girls are in third grade and Josie Patel is new to the town. Luckily for her Kat’s best friend, Perri Kahn is out sick. When Perri returns a trio is established allowing each of the girls to exercise and support each of their individual interest and strengths. Told from several points of view including Josie, another student’s, a guidance counselor, a homicide detective and the father of the slain victim, along with a few others each version leaves clues that lead up to the tragedy. At some points the various narratives become slightly distracting because there are too many fingers in the narrative pie (the ex-boyfriend from New York was an example). Though on the whole To the Power of Three is a hard book to put down – it is less about being a who done it (although the shooting isn’t as obvious as it is first reported) as much as a why done it.

I enjoyed the book although now hours after finishing it I am starting to debate in my mind its possible plot holes. Even so there are elements that will stick with me for a time such as the guidance counselor who wants to do right by the high school girls even though in some cases she proves to be just as bad as anyone towing the teen angst status quo line – I thought this story element was nicely ironic. Further Lippman also provides some plot points that makes readers suspicious of secondary characters that in the end just turn out to be annoying characters.

I recommend To the Power of Three. I do not think it is much of a true summer read because the material is not anywhere near light-hearted, but as far as a book that once you are a third of the way in becomes a hard to put down book.

Happy reading!