Give a Boy a Gun

 
(i)

 

Intense school-shooting book will trigger heated discussion.

What parents need to know

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

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
Not applicable
Language

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

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Todd Strasser
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:January 1, 2000
Number of pages:146
Publisher's recommended age(s):12

This review of Give a Boy a Gun was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old April 26, 2009
 

They should have succeeded!

I read this book and I'm disappointed that they didn't succeed. They deserved good revenge for all those years of torture. But overall it was a great book and you should read it if you haven't already.
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 needs to be prevented, and that violence and revenge are NOT the answers to the problem. The two shooters were portrayed as good children, but bullying caused one of them to spiral into a deep depression and the other to develop anger problems and violent tendencies. While the story is told from many different people who have very different opinions about what happened, they all agree on one thing: the shooting only made things worse for everyone. Even the friends of the shooters, who wanted revenge on the bullies, felt that the shooting was horrible and made things much worse off for them. The book, overall, conveys a positive message. There is some mild violence, which is not at all graphic, and some characters consume alcohol, but it is nothing that children haven't already heard about before. I read this book when I was 12, along with the rest of my seventh grade class, and I didn't see anything wrong with it. I would especially recommend this book to all teachers, so they could understand how to prevent bullying and future school shootings.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
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 other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Educational value
Great messages

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