A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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"?
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