That Night reads like a realistic account of what life must be like for the survivors of mass shootings. While Jess was at the concession stand getting candy for her best friend, Marissa, the gunman entered the theater and shot down 18 people, including Jess' brother (Marissa watched him die). Jess basically lost her mother and Marissa that day, too. Her mother's grief is so all-encompassing that she no longer works, pays bills, cares for her daughter, or gets out of bed. Marissa's trauma was so complete that she is sent to a private school out of state. Jess is left with her own guilt and grief as well as the responsibility of caring for herself, her mother, their home and bills, etc. Lucas lost his older brother who died shielding Lucas from a bullet. Lucas suffers from guilt and PTSD in addition to personal grief and his family's grief. Jess starts working at the hardware store (because BILLS) where Lucas works. It isn't long before the two fall in love. Even though they are just what the other needs, building their relationship is going to take a lot of work, honesty, and emotional support.
My favorite thing about this book is that Lucas and Jess are a couple throughout the book. They get together early and readers get to enjoy their relationship as they build it. Their love story is not easy. It's very painful but so very sweet. These two teens are trying so hard. No one that young should have to carry these kind of burdens. Tragically, these are the same burdens being carried by so many teens in our society of mass shootings. That Night is a preliminary nominee for the 2020-2021 Gateway Readers Award list. It deserves to make it onto the final list.