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Give a Boy a Gun Paperback – March 6, 2012
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* "Both haunting and harrowing, the book deserves a wide readership, discussion and debate."—Booklist, starred review
“A disturbing and provocative novel.”—KLIATT
"Vivid, distressing, and all too real…The multiple points of view create empathy for a wide range of characters and enhance the book's in-your-face reality. Important, insightful, and chilling."—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Todd Strasser has written many critically acclaimed novels for adults, teenagers, and children, including the award-winning Can’t Get There from Here, Give a Boy a Gun, Boot Camp, If I Grow Up, Famous, and How I Created My Perfect Prom Date, which became the Fox feature film Drive Me Crazy. Todd lives in a suburb of New York and speaks frequently at schools. Visit him at ToddStrasser.com.
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In the aftermath of a school shooting and bombing, a recent graduate and journalism returns to her alma mater to interview survivors and witnesses to try to reconstruct what lead Brendan and Gary to do the unthinkable. What she finds is a history of relentless bullying by jocks, teachers and administrators who looked the other way and justified the bullying and students who accepted the status quo.
Rather than a traditional narrative, Todd Strasser wrote GIVE A BOY A GUN as a series of interview snippets, a few internet chats, the boys' suicide notes and some real quotes articles about actual school. I thought Strasser's approach was a great way to give different POVs and to not only show the failure of some of the adults to address the school hierarchy and bullying, but their almost blaming the victims for being bullied. Strasser never suggests that Gary and Brendan were justified in their violence, but that their violence wasn't created in a vacuum. Could their actions have been prevented? Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Brendan seemed to have more inner demons that preceded any bullying. Gary seemed to have been more affected by events at school. Readers will ultimately make their own judgments.
THEMES: school violence, bullying, friendship, divorce
GIVE A BOY A GUN is a thoughtful look at the making of two school shooters.
None of the characters in this chronicle is developed in any conventional sense—and the underdevelopment of the characters, along with the hazy sense of plot, unconventional structure, and overall sense of detachment—are probably calculated and strategic risks to reflect the theme of incomprehensibility and senseless loss that accompanies the events in this novel (if this book may even be classified as a novel).
Brief portions of the narrative lapse into preachy homilies about bullying and tolerance, but it’s tough to object when there are no easy solutions. An unexpected and ironic development at the climax of the violence highlights the complexity of the issue, and no one escapes blame. Strasser acknowledges that we are all culpable—to some extant—for a culture that values violence over empathy.