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This Is Not a Drill Hardcover – October 25, 2012
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It’s already rough going when exes Emery and Jake are paired together to teach French to a class of first-graders. But then Brian Stutts, an Iraq War vet suffering from PTSD, charges into the class to take his kid. The teacher resists and out comes a gun, and from that moment everyone in the room is held hostage. Cops, ambulances, and SWAT teams gather, angling for a way to reason with Stutts. In alternating chapters, we discover how both Emery and Jake are processing the situation as well as their past relationship. The fact that there’s a gun being waved around sometimes makes these tangents feel too leisurely, and it’s also unclear how the two are able to hold private conversations inside the same room as the gunman. That said, the setup is irresistible, and McDowell’s authentic handling of the confusion and fright of the class of first-graders lends the story a constant undertone of tension. Purposeful in parts, but fans of Todd Strasser and Paul Volponi will relish it. Grades 6-9. --Daniel Kraus
"Fast-paced, suspenseful thriller. . . . The hours-long standoff comes to a dramatic and violent climax. . . . A vividly depicted and gripping tragedy." — Kirkus Reviews
“The setup is irresistible, and McDowell’s authentic handling of the confusion and fright of the class of first-graders lends the story a constant undertone of tension. . . . Fans of Todd Strasser and Paul Volponi will relish it.” — Booklist
“What makes this story stand out are the discussions between Emery and the gunman, who is suffering from PTSD. . . . . McDowell balances the gunman’s plight against his son’s shame, fear, and divided loyalties. Written in a format that will appeal to reluctant readers . . . an excellent choice for sparking classroom discussion.” — School Library Journal
“Ripped from the headlines. . . . Fast-moving story that will keep the reader’s attention with bits of humor to lighten the mood. McDowell excels in depicting the voices of the teenage narrators, the first-graders, and a soldier suffering from PTSD.” — Library Media Connection
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Top Customer Reviews
Jake and Emery are seniors who tutor first graders. One day, the father of one of the kids comes in demanding to take his kid. Since he has to go through the office and all that to take his son out, he opts to pull out a gun and take the entire class hostage instead.
The book is a very quick read but I didn't feel connected to the story one bit. Maybe because you know from the beginning that the guy has PTSD (is in the summary)...? I mean, we all know how PTSD works for soldiers back from war.
The story also covers Jake and Emery who used to go out but "broke up" when Jake messed up. Now she doesn't want to be near him but she is trapped with him which forces them both to reminiscent in their relationship and take a look at themselves.
I am almost scared to say I didn't like the book because of its subject. With the recent Sandy Hook, CT events, who is crazy not to like this type of book?
Well, I just felt the story empty. It didn't deepen in anything at all. I felt it was more like a rushed idea to write a book about a school hostage situation to take advantage of the turmoil that Sandy Hook caused.
Of course, McDowell may have written this book for an entire different reason but this is just what I felt while reading it because it doesn't really engages in anything.
In short, the book is very superficial and it may appeal to your heart. That is, if you have one which apparently I don't.
I'm impressed that this is Beck's first book. I thought it was well-written. The situation was tense. Each chapter switches back and forth from each teen's perspective, and they each have their own, distinct voice. I thought the characters were fleshed out well and realistic. They were characters you liked - you could even empathize with the gunman. Some of the other books my daughter has read - the characters are so vapid. These teens were thoughtful and mature, but realistically so for their age and life experience. (I kept thinking - the way these characters are thinking through their options and actions - I hope my daughter is learning something from this!) I didn't even mind the backstory of how the two teens had once been an item.
In a way, it had a "happy" ending. Because in a situation like that, it would seem there's only one way it's going to end. I was afraid which ending the author would take, since it is a "teen" book. She didn't choose the "best" outcome (which would've been anti-climatic and sugar-coated), but one that was realistic and not as traumatizing as it could have been. It was fitting.
I recommend this book. I hate to say it, but in this day and age + our gun culture + our not proactively taking care of our vets and people with mental health issues, this kind of scenario is all too common. Unfortunately, our kids need to think about what they would do and how they would act in these situations.
-- I also try to skim my daughter's books for bad language (so HARD to find realistic books without it). I hadn't skimmed this one in advance. The teenage boy does use some cursing. And since the gunman was a soldier, he does, too. (F*bomb once.) But it's not gratuitous; it's in line with the characters.
-- The teen romance - the most physical part mentioned was making out.
This is a very well told story. It is riveting with well-developed characters and isn't as dark as I would expect.
While the story comes off sounding realistic--and might possibly be for a classroom of first graders--it didn't fit true to my own experiences in which all of the students in my high school class acted as though they were pretending to be mannequins, hoping not to draw any attention to themselves, shrinking as much as possible physically in order to hide right where they were. As a former classroom teacher who has had an irrational, apparently drunk, parent storm into my classroom, I can't imagine such a parent allowing kids to do anything but give the crazy parent all of their attention; so having the children do activities, play games on the computers, etc. doesn't feel realistic to me at all. Her story comes off as a lighter version of such an event that would be unlikely to be real, but which works well with her telling the tale.
Overall, a riveting read, but don't trust it to be an accurate account of a gun-in-a-classroom incident.
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