Nine-year-old Jaden was getting ready for school when his mom’s disgruntled ex-boyfriend rang the doorbell. Tyler was “just messing around” at his friend Brandon’s house in rural Michigan; Gustin wanted to show off his dad’s Cadillac. All four boys died on Nov. 23, 2013, a date journalist Gary Younge chose randomly before setting out to investigate as many cases of American children and teens killed by gunfire as he could track down within that 24-hour span. (The average daily number is seven; on this “unremarkable Saturday,” it happened to be 10—not counting suicides, which are notoriously underreported.) His hope in telling each of their stories, he writes, is to put a human face—”a child’s face”—on the steady drip of everyday fatalities that “lack the critical mass and tragic drama to draw the attention of the nation’s media in the way a mass shooting in a cinema or church might.”
In fact, most of the stories here didn’t make it past a single evening-news cycle or mention in the local paper, and the scant details of the young victims’ brief lives are both poignant and banal: They loved Xbox and Pixar movies and family pets; some of them were still sweet and unformed, others already had lengthy criminal records. None of them deserved their fate, of course, though the world tends to stratify them anyway, reflexively finding the tiny angels slaughtered at Sandy Hook just a little more devastating than the ones who were brown or poor or struck tough poses on social media.
In thoughtful, evenhanded chapters stacked with footnotes, Younge works methodically to uncover the unique patterns and hypocrisies of his adopted second home. (Though British, he has an American wife and spent a dozen years reporting from the States.) Another Day doesn’t offer solutions, because it can’t; it just makes it impossible not to care.