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.)
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