*Trigger Warning: School violence*

This book took my breath away. I was on a flight from Copenhagen to Dublin and my husband kept trying to talk to me and I just kept holding up my hand. I simply HAD TO KNOW the end of this. The narrative is stunning, the way everything weaves together, how each of the students have their own unique voices.

I cannot gush about this enough, but will not say more about the plot. You deserve to be as fresh as I was going into this. All I had was the back material – so I’ll list that here.

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

As an educator, I would absolutely have my university students read this when we do units on systemic violence and the gun culture in America. It demonstrates so clearly that one of the side effects of that culture is that things can go from zero-death very quickly, with mediation of conflicts being eliminated by the use of guns. I don’t work in high schools, but I’d imagine that many high school students would be sucked in by this book as well and that it could be used to teach for sure.

The American relationship with guns is something I was asked about nearly weekly when I taught at a U.K. university. It seemed to defy logic to many of my students and colleagues and I never had a good answer. Especially because as I read this book, it didn’t always feel fictional.

In a way, this is We Need to Talk About Kevin from the perspective of the kids in the gym. If you’ve not read that book, I’d recommend it over the film, for the record. Both accounts of this kind of violence

Read this. And then plan something to soothe your soul because you are going to need it. I’m not sure you’ll have time to drink anything while you read this, so sucked in you will be. I had a Jameson and ginger ale directly after, for the record, and it certainly helped settle the soul.


Further Reading:

  • Columbine by Dave Cullen:: Anyone interested in how this kind of thing happens should read this book. A non-fiction, gripping account of that day in April 1999, Cullen deals with potential causes and many of the effects.
  • “Kids and Guns”:: Channel 4 in the UK did a documentary about the gun culture and children in the U.S. This is a link to the Guardian write-up about it, in case you can’t find the documentary somewhere online. It’s harrowing but worth it. Another recommended documentary is “Bowling for Columbine” by Michael Moore (before he became such a public jackass).
  • The Body Keeps Score: A highly recommended book for those who are survivors of trauma or those who love them. I would pass this out to the whole freaking town.


I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.