54 pages 1 hour read

Graham McNamee


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2003

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Summary and Study Guide


Acceleration (2003) is a young adult novel by Graham McNamee. Narrated in the first person, it tells the story of 17-year-old Duncan as he learns of a potential serial killer in his city and his attempt to stop him. It examines themes of guilt, forgiveness, mental health, poverty, and more.

Plot Summary

The story opens with 17-year-old Duncan working a two-month stint at a lost and found, his boss being a quiet man named Jacob. The previous summer, Duncan was swimming in Lake Ontario when a girl named Maya drowned. He was the last person to see her alive but wasn’t able to save her. Haunted by Maya’s screams, he alludes to medication and visits with a psychiatrist being unhelpful—his girlfriend, Kim, breaking up with him as a result.

A bored Duncan finds a notebook among the lost possessions. It turns out to be the journal of a disturbed person—containing photos and police reports of animal cruelty and arson as well as the descriptions and schedules of several women. The author is preparing to take his first human victim. Duncan decides to find the man and stop him before he can kill, hoping this act will make up for his being unable to save Maya.

Duncan enlists his friends, Vinny and Wayne, though Wayne doesn’t help until the end of the story. The boys manage to find the author of the journal, a man whom Duncan thinks of as a “Roach.” He breaks into Roach’s house and finds a workshop and small room prepared to house victims in the basement. Roach catches him and chases him out of the house to the subway. They fight on the subway platform, and Duncan falls onto the tracks. They fight again as he tries to get out, and Roach ends up getting hit by the train and dies. Duncan’s parents, Kim, and Wayne visit Duncan in the hospital.

As the story concludes, Duncan goes swimming with Vinny and no longer hears Maya’s phantom screams underwater. He apologizes to Maya and tells Vinny of his newfound peace.