You could become whatever you want to be.

A ballerina, a cowboy, a fireman, a teacher. The sky was the limit – or so you were told. You could grow up and become the person of your dreams and that was okay. Except sometimes, as in the new book “A Murder Over a Girl” by Ken Corbett, dreaming can be deadly.

Larry King had had a rough start in life.

Born to an addict who “turned tricks” for drugs, Larry was neglected and abused and became a ward of the state as a small toddler; at two-and-a-half, the little “brown boy” was adopted by a white couple and life was better – until he reached adolescence. At age fifteen, he began talking about wearing make-up and women’s clothing, and becoming the girl he felt he was.

Many of his teachers “directed Larry to the closet;” the supportive ones were criticized. His adoptive parents tried to downplay his wishes; eventually, Larry left their house and moved into a group home, where he felt comfortable enough to start transitioning. He asked his teachers to call him “Leticia” and he began wearing cosmetics and feminine apparel to school.

To those who knew him, Brandon McInerney was “just a regular kid.”  Blond, blue-eyed, and athletic, he liked riding his bike and hanging out with friends – though there was a side of him that many knew but few acknowledged: McInerney had a quick temper and was fascinated with Nazism and skinhead culture. Larry King, therefore, was everything McInerney hated – especially when, as rumor had it, King asked McInerney to “be his Valentine.”

Or, at least that’s what other middle-schoolers claimed, although no one could “actually recollect” hearing it. And even if his words were just rumor, some kids still said that McInerney was bothered by King’s “flamboyant” actions, possibly to the point of sputtering rage.

Friends advised McInerney to ignore King – but he couldn’t. And so, on February 12, 2008, not three weeks after his fourteenth birthday, Brandon McInerney took a gun to school and shot Larry King twice in the head.

I wish I could say that there’s a satisfying ending to this book, but there’s not. And it’s not author Ken Corbett’s fault, but reading “A Murder Over a Girl” is somewhat like watching a horrible train wreck that just keeps going.

Surprisingly, that doesn’t diminish the importance of this book.

Corbett, a clinical psychologist, offers readers a look at a crime from a non-lawmaker’s point of view. This unique eye for what happened enhances the understanding of the whole picture, psychologically speaking and especially in the books’ second section. There, Corbett writes mostly about the trial, witnesses, and other research, all of which seemed to allow him to dive more personally into this story – and so, because he presents it well, will you. 

This is a timely book, a trial-watcher’s delight, and a shocker all around. It has no happy ending, but it’s impossible to look away from, nonetheless. Start “A Murder Over a Girl,” and you’ll become riveted.