Kent State

Written by Deborah Wiles
Review by Meg Wiviott

On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a group of unarmed Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam War. Four students were killed. Nine others were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. Extensive disagreement over how the situation was handled heightened tensions nationwide. Immediately following the Kent State shootings, a student-led strike forced hundreds of high schools, colleges, and universities around the country to close temporarily. The shootings left an ugly scar on an already divided country.

In this exceptionally well-researched novel, Wiles uses free-verse poetry to present this tragic story. Different fonts represent the divergent perspectives of students, townspeople, a guardsman, and a black student (many of whom stayed away from the protest, knowing the guardsmen would have live ammunition). The varying story lines and fonts create a chaotic page, replicating not only the chaos of the moment, but of the times, and bring to mind the disparate points of view in today’s politics. Written for young adult readers, grades seven and up, this offers a glimpse at a small, though important, moment in history. Readers not familiar with the larger context of the events may not understand a few references, but that is scant criticism.