Meticulous account of the Newtown massacre and its aftermath.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza murdered 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He had already killed his mother, and he ended by killing himself. New York Daily News journalist Lysiak covered the event, later moving to Newtown to gather more material, particularly about Lanza’s troubled life. Suffering from Asperger’s, Lanza was a difficult, angry, withdrawn child. His mother dealt ineffectually with his behavior, repeatedly pulling him out of schools that she believed were not serving his needs, which exacerbated his isolation. Their common bond was guns: When Adam was 4, she taught him to shoot at a firing range; when he was older, she gave him guns of his own. Their house was filled with firearms and ammunition, and Adam became an expert on weaponry, sharing information and advice on gun enthusiasts’ websites. He was obsessed with mass murderers, correcting Wikipedia entries for them, and creating a 7-foot-long spreadsheet ranking killers “in order from most kills to least, along with the precise make and model of the weapons used….” Anders Behring Breivik, who shot 69 students at a summer camp in Norway in 2011, was Lanza’s hero. The subtitle of the book is “An American Tragedy,” but Norway was obviously not immune. Why did Lanza kill? Could he have been stopped? What can prevent future horrors? The author quotes experts, but questions remain unanswered: about the connection between autism and violence; about whether violent video games (Lanza was obsessed with them) lead to violent acts; about the efficacy of gun control laws (Lanza broke all of Connecticut’s existing laws); about whether better mental health access could have stopped his descent into rage and paranoia; and about America’s identity.
Lysiak hopes to “inform the debate” generated by the tragedy; it’s been a year, and this harrowing book might be a reminder that the debate needs reviving.