Review: This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

20131120-190720.jpgIn an ideal world, parents would send their little ones off to school each day worrying about nothing more serious than if they’ll have someone to play with at recess. Teachers would be free of the worry that they might have to step in front of an armed gunman to protect their students. And those precious little ones wouldn’t have to suffer through lockdown drills where they practice what to do if a “bad guy” gets into their school. Unfortunately that world does not exist.

Emery and Jake are high school seniors who spend time volunteering at their local elementary school. Their hours at the school are spent tutoring the children in French and just helping out wherever they can. It’s understandable that they’ve formed attachments to the first graders they spend so much time with. Brian Stutts is an Iraqi war veteran who is going through a custody dispute over his son, Patrick. Because he is suffering from violent outbursts as a result of PTSD, he is not allowed to spend unsupervised time with his son. A confrontation occurs between him and the teacher, resulting in an armed Stutts holding the first grade students, the teacher, and Jake & Emery hostage. The high schoolers must not only worry about their own safety but also the safety of the little ones who look up to them.

This is a fast-paced book that’s full of tension and suspense. The author tells the story from two viewpoints, switching seamlessly between Emery and Jake. It’s hard to take at times, coming so soon on the heels of Newtown and all the other school shootings that seem to be in the news on a regular basis. But, will there ever really be a perfect time to grapple with this issue? I also found myself feeling some sympathy for Stutts and what he experienced in Iraq. There’s never an excuse for this type of violence, but there are very real issues that must be addressed before we can even begin to end the violence. Regardless of your politics or where you stand on the issue of gun control, this is an excellent book for young adults and older readers as well.

~ Thalia

Buy It Now: This Is Not a Drill