The 57 Bus

Dashka Slater
Star Rating
Reviewer's Rating
Jul 23, 2018

What labels define you? Which boxes contain you? No middle ground. No grey. Keep it simple. Describe yourself with categories. Binaries. Either-ors. Extremes.

Once you tell me, do I know you?

Or do you want to say, "Wait, that's not really me. I'm much more complicated and nuanced than that. Those are mere ideas. I'm a person."?

This is the story of two teens who didn't fit nicely into categories. For a short while in 2013-4, they were media sensations. The media loves extremes. All the outsiders kept their definitions of the two simple, imposed their preferred categories, saw only ideas and symbols. Stripped these two people of their humanity. This book gives it back.

The 57 Bus is a marvelous work of investigative storytelling. Through extensive interviews, documents, and fact gathering, Slater has found the people behind the headlines. Sasha, who fell asleep on a bus to wake up on fire. Richard, who made an impulsive decision in an attempt to be silly. The family, friends, mentors, and teachers who loved them both, who shaped them before the incident and supported them after through burn trauma on the one hand and prosecution on the other. All are depicted with compassion, as complicated and nuanced people. Slater uses a variety of styles to accomplish her task, a collection of short chapters that both express and explore.

Express and explore humanity.

It is a thoughtful, compelling, and moving book.


There are two kinds of people in the world.
Male and Female.
Gay and Straight.
Black and White.
Normal and Weird.
Cis and Trans.
There are two kinds of people in the world.
Saints and Sinners.
Victims and Villains.
Cruel and Kind.
Guilty and Innocent.
There are two kinds of people in the world.
Just two.
Just two.
Only two.

Reviewed by Chris K.
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