Journalist Rathbone, who has written for the New York Daily News and the Miami Herald, spent a year observing life in a New York City public high school—and found herself in deeper than she'd expected. The hero of her book is West Side High's principal, Ed Reynolds, who welcomes kids with histories of disciplinary problems and who have met with sundry other failures at traditional schools. Reynolds distinguishes himself not only by becoming a figure to whom students can feel close (most call him ``Ed,'' and with respect) but also by taking a personal interest in seemingly every even vaguely redeemable hard-luck student case. Rathbone reflects that Reynolds's empathy was shaped in large part by having lost his foster son, who was involved in drugs, to suicide. The author's own vision, however, can seem a bit uneven at times. In her fascinating look at the gangs so popular with some of her subjects, she unveils for outsiders a world that would otherwise remain mostly invisible. Still, she gives too much credit to the family relationships fostered by gangs. For example, Rathbone laments the ``divorce'' of two teenage members of a gang who were first ``married'' by the authority of the organization's ritual. In fairness, though, the author is the first to concede that her loyalties may sometimes have been skewed by her own troubled upbringing. And she is able to maintain a professional distinction between the high-school teachers' feelings about her as an outsider and her recognition that these teachers are giving fully of themselves to help their kids. It's this level of honesty and admittedly imperfect objectivity that make Rathbone's experiment a success. She contrives no happy endings for students who cannot find them. Neither does she paint a hopeless picture to assail or depress us. Her version of the facts is refreshing. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-87113-707-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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