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Give a Boy a Gun Hardcover – September 1, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Hardcover, September 1, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

High school sophomores Gary Searle and Brendan Lawlor have had enough. Day in and day out, for more than two years, they have been harassed, beaten up, and cursed out by most of the jocks at Middleton High--especially by football player Sam Flach. Armed with guns they've stolen from a neighbor's collection, Gary and Brendan storm a school dance, booby trap all the doors with homemade bombs, and prepare to turn their high school caste system upside down with a violent show of force. When it's all over, Sam Flach is alive (but without any hope of a future football career), Gary has killed himself, and Brendan is in a coma, after being beaten almost to death by other students who managed to disarm him. Could this tragedy have been prevented? Who, if anyone, is to blame?

Consisting of short, related statements from students, parents, school administrators, and even the troubled shooters themselves, Give a Boy a Gun attempts to give a voice to the countless sides of the school violence issue. Is this novel disturbing and at times difficult to read? Yes, of course it is. But it is also an articulate, well-rounded cross section of the many viewpoints on gun control, peer bullying, and the high school social order since the traumatic events that took place in Littleton, Colorado. While Strasser readily acknowledges that there are no easy solutions to the problem of school violence, this powerful book will be a useful tool for parents and teachers alike in exploring this issue and finding some ways of resolving the tragic escalation of teen violence. (Ages 12 and older) --Jennifer Hubert

From Publishers Weekly

Like Virginia Walter in Making Up Megaboy, Strasser (How I Changed My Life) explores the psyche of adolescents who use handguns to violent ends. Unfortunately, the format used here detracts from the central dramaA10th-graders Gary Searle and Brendan Lawlor holding their classmates hostage with firearms and bombs. A portentous author's note ("One of the things I dislike most about guns in our society is that... they rob children of what we used to think of as a childhood") prefaces an excerpt from Gary's suicide note, which is followed by comments from one Denise Shipley, who is studying journalism at the state university and returns to Middletown High "determined not to leave again until I understood what had happened there." The bulk of the novel is comprised of quotes Denise has collected from, among others, the two 10th-graders' parents, teachers and classmates, including nemesis Sam Flach, a football player whose knees they shatter with bullets. These quotes, however, seem arbitrarily arranged into sections; scattered and disconnected, the quotes build little momentum and the overall effect is numbing. Running along the foot of many of the pages are distracting excerpts from the media, Internet postings and statistics from unattributed sources (e.g., "The number of kids killed by firearms has quadrupled in the past ten years"). The revelation in Denise's closing note (that she is Gary's stepsister) and the author's "Final Thoughts" ("It will be your job to keep these ideas alive") provide a heavy-handed ending that may be more off-putting than eye-opening. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; First Edition edition (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689811128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689811128
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,241,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Denny on September 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Good fiction encourages the reader to think hard about the issues that affect our lives. The very best fiction does that and more - it encourages us to act on those issues. In this powerful, honest, and disturbing novel about guns and school violence, Todd Strasser gives voice to the victims, classmates, neighbors, parents, and students who held the guns - both fictional and real - and asks the reader what he can do to make a difference. Strasser goes beyond just the issue of gun control by presenting a compelling look at the intolerance that pervades our schools. He implores our educators and children to celebrate the differences that make us human, to value accomplishments beyond those on the athletic fields, and to recognize that marching to a different drummer is not cause for ridicule. I applaud Strasser, a fiction author, who uses his craft and his gift to encourage readers to be part of the solution to violence that is unnecessarily costing young lives.
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By A Customer on September 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Taking today's headlines and combining them with fictional faces and more than enough quotes and statistics to terrify his readers, Todd Strasser presents his newest YA novel, Give A Boy A Gun (2000). The novel is a combination of statements given by witnesses to a well thought out gun attack by 2 teens against their peers and teachers at a school dance. The book is similar to Making up Megaboy (Virginia Walter, 1998) in that the story is presented from multiple perspectives versus narrative form. But unlike Megaboy, this book takes you inside the lives of its killers and gives their rationale for their actions as well as their intimate suicide letters. This is an incredibly well researched and thought out book. It will definitely raise the eyebrows of many parents because of its violence level and subject matter. It was written for YA's and will make them think long and hard about gun control, but I feel that librarians and teachers alike would be remiss if they did not read it for themselves. Includes further sources for information. Partial proceeds from the book will go to gun control charities. Highly recommended for older teens and adults. Not for the weak of stomach. A definite best book candidate. Controversy will follow this book wherever it goes.
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By A Customer on September 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I started reading the book, I was amazed to discover that it was not a non fiction book. The style and wording of the author makes the book extremely plausible, and the fact that it is based on true occurences adds to that. In "Give a Boy a Gun", Todd Strasser tells the story of two boys who hold their school hostage during a dance. The reason: revenge on the football players and teachers. The book is written from the view points of friends and family, school staff, e-mails between the gunmen and chatroom conversations between the gunmen and their friends. At the bottom of most every page are facts about violence and shootings. At the back of the book is a section about violent shootings and occurences that happened while the book was being written, and another brief section of certin school shootings.
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Format: Hardcover
I painfully recall those couple of years in my early adolescence when I really got pushed around a lot. For me it was junior high in the late 60's when I'd be constantly harassed by older or bigger kids. Walk down the hall or down the stairs and get tripped or shoved into a locker or have your books slammed out of your arms sending your papers flying everywhere. Sit on the school bus and be whacked with a book by a passerby or have your hat snatched. Occasionally I remember an even bigger kid coming along and asserting his dominance over the bully who was picking on me -- yep, that was me, the bottom of the food chain--but usually these incidents became solitary, painful memories of the time when I was a good, quiet student treading water in a sea of raging hormones.
I cannot recall ever having the urge to exact revenge (beyond a hand gesture). But, then again, it was a time that, in retrospect, seemed to pass soon enough as I came into my own in high school. But what would I have been like if I'd had to endure year after year of such torture through high school as well as junior high?
In GIVE A BOY A GUN by Todd Strasser, we meet two teenage boys who, after enduring years of torture by their school's most popular students, do take revenge. In a fictional account which recalls real-life school shootings in Littleton (CO), Jonesboro (AK), and Springfield (OR), the two teens take a group of students and teachers hostage at a dance in the high school gymnasium.
Strasser presents the story in the form of quotes by the teens (Brendan Lawlor and Gary Searle) as well as their friends, their tormentors and other schoolmates, current and former teachers, their parents and neighbors.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
When an author decides to write a story about a school shooting, the unwritten rule is that the author (unless a psychopath) is going to write a story that says school shootings are bad. We don't challenge this assumption because it's inherently moral. At the same time, any book that discusses school shootings shouldn't render the shooters as demonized villains. When kids start killing other kids the reasons are complex and deep. A simple, "This is why it happened", is nearly impossible, and to this end Strasser is very adept. But here's where Strasser messes up: In "Give a Boy a Gun" we have two guys who live hellish lives and try to take it out on their persecutors. By the end of the book they've trapped everyone they hate in a gymnasium with guns and bombs. And at this point the reader SHOULD have been given enough information to say a) Yes, these boys are victims and I can understand where they're coming from and b) Killing people is wrong anyway. Strasser drills home the first point perfectly. Strasser misses the second point by a mile.

Gary and Brendan (perfect middle-America names) hate high school. It's just their bad luck to be living in a particularly sports crazy town. In Middletown, the high school jocks are granted particularly galling dispensations. Because they can bring their team and town incredible glory, they are treated like gods both in and out of school. This means that anyone who tangles with the glorious football players will inevitably end up on the losing side. The jocks take advantage of this system fully, and it only comes to a head when Brendan, an outsider who's transferred from another town, refuses to cow tow. The more the jocks try to teach him a lesson the worse it gets for Brendan and his reclusive and depressive friend Brendan.
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