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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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The storyline was intense and the dialogue kept me intrigued throughout the entire novel. From page 1 I was enthralled, and could not wait to "see" what would happen in the end.
It was hard to tell that this was Beck McDowell's first novel; she did a wonderful job painting a picture and her storytelling about the very serious and sensitive issue of PTSD was on-point. I'm not sure if a lot of young adults and teenagers are aware of PTSD and the other ailments that our veterans face when they return from deployment. McDowell does a masterful job of shedding light on that issue, and hopefully more awareness will be built as our troops continue to return home.
This book is definitely worth recommending, and it is appropriate for anyone 13 and older. Great job Beck McDowell, and I look forward to reading more of your work.
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