Give a Boy a Gun

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Give a Boy a Gun Book Poster Image
Intense school-shooting book will trigger heated discussion.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 20 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The author includes, at the foot of many of the pages, factoids about real school shootings, guns, efforts at gun control, and statistics about death and violence in our society. He concludes with a list of related events that took place while he was writing the book, a partial list of school shootings, and a bibliography. This book -- and this information -- could be useful to high school teachers and administrators looking to raise gun control awareness among students.

Positive Messages

This intense story will make readers think about both the impact of bullying -- and America's gun culture. Parents can use the questions in our "Families Can Talk About" section to help their teens think more deeply about these topics.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The author is trying to make a connection between bullying and violence, but most of the main characters exhibit some of the worst behavior possible. The protagonists suffer through relentless bullying to the point that some readers may actually find themselves rooting for the shooters to succeed.

Violence

Shootings and beatings. Effects described in detail. Two teens capture students and teachers, shoot some, and mean to kill them all. From start to finish, humiliation, rage, and fear predominate.

Sex
Language

Mild to moderate, with more extreme swearing suggested by substitutions. Also, a slur against homosexuals.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that kids will probably find this book about a school shooting hard to put down -- and even harder to forget. The subject matter is intense: the main characters are harassed, and later they plan an elaborate school shooting involving kidnapping, murders, guns, and bombs. That said, this is a book that will inspire a lot of discussion and introspection. The author helps kids think more deeply about both bullying and our gun culture, and provides facts about real school shootings as well as statistics about guns and gun control and more. Common Sense Media's article "Talking to Kids About School Shootings" can help parents who think that their kids might be overwhelmed by these facts, or this story.

User Reviews

Adult Written bysarisara April 9, 2008
Adult Written bydenmarkriot April 9, 2008
Teen, 16 years old Written bywavecrasher737 June 25, 2011

All adolescents and school faculty should read this book!

This book conveys messages that all adolescents, teachers, and other school faculty need to hear and understand. It shows how damaging bullying can be, why it n... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byskiergirl202 November 19, 2010

Great for tweens and teens

This book is great to tell a realistic story about bullying and fire arms. Ilove this book and I think everyone should read it!

What's the story?

High school students Gary Searle and Brendan Lawlor enter a school dance heavily armed with automatic weapons, having chained the doors shut and booby-trapped the exits with homemade bombs. They intend a carefully-planned payback against their schoolmates, mostly members of the football team, who have persecuted and tormented them for years. Using transcripts and interviews with survivors, this fictional story torn from the headlines chronicles events leading up to, during, and following the shootings. The author includes, at the foot of many of the pages, factoids about real school shootings, guns, efforts at gun control, and statistics about death and violence in our society. He concludes with a list of related events that took place while he was writing the book, a partial list of school shootings, and a bibliography. Part of the book's proceeds are donated to gun-control organizations.

Is it any good?

Author Todd Strasser does a frighteningly effective job of making his readers think -- about guns, bullying, and more -- and the result is one very disturbing book. Some of the ways it is disturbing are clearly intentional; others are less clear. Readers ready for the intense material will find a provocative and compelling novel certain to trigger much heated discussion. This book could be useful to high school teachers and administrators looking to raise gun control awareness among students.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the fictional events described in this book mirror real-life school shootings that you've read about in the news or seen on television. What can we do to help prevent this kind of violence -- and also help bullied kids before they take such extreme measures?

  • What do you think of the author's use of facts and statistics? Do you think it adds to the story's importance -- or does it make it too much of a "message book"?

Book details

For kids who love challenging books

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