A Murder over a Girl – book review

A Murder over a Girl

Justice, Gender, Junior High

Author: Ken Corbett

Successfully and unsuccessfully, much like the murder trial itself, A Murder over a Girl by Ken Corbett (Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy) depicts both reality and stereotypes in its prose and salient facts of the murder of a 15 year old brown boy (Larry King) by a 14 year old white boy (Brandon McInerney) in 2008.   Brandon shot Larry in front of his classmates and teacher at his junior high school in Oxnard, California.  The trial occurred three years later when Brandon was 17.  He was tried as an adult.  Larry King was a gender confused Caucasian-African American boy who had been calling himself Leticia and wearing girls’ clothing to school for two weeks prior to the murder.  Brandon was being raised by a white militant, violent father and step brothers who also embraced guns and violence.  Both boys were lost in their own ways.

Psychologist Ken Corbett, gay himself, was interested in and writing about boys and gender identity at the time and the newspaper articles about the trial interested him so much that he traveled to LA to attend the trial.  As we read Corbett’s bird’s eye view of the trial, we begin to see the horror of not only the families’ personal tragedy, but the narrowing of perspective of the jury and the media as Brandon becomes the white blond blue eyed victim and Larry the assailant, as Larry is different.  Larry is half black and deviant.  He has been a problem since birth.  He has not been loved enough.

Full of compassion and horror…

A Murder over a Girl allows us, the readers, to encounter all the dynamics of family dysfunction, in both the victim, the perpetrator and the rescuer roles known in psychological terms as the Karpmann Drama Triangle, well known as a model in families of addiction (alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction).  As Corbett’s observations and interviews with a town that becomes a “theater in the courtroom,” as we watch how Brandon eventually becomes the victim and Larry the persecutor, we see ourselves in the tragedy of family and society lost, falling between the cracks of even our own justice system.

Truly memorable, A Murder over a Girl demands our attention. 

While we might feel shame, Larry King feels nothing he is dead.  Brandon pleads to manslaughter and is serving a 21 year sentence.  What have we learned, asks Corbett, how can we change the societal mores that allow this to happen?

You will have to read to find out. 

Enormously important. 

I give this a “high 5” out of 5 stars.

We received a product to facilitate our review. All opinions are our own

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