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GIVE A BOY A GUN by Todd Strasser

GIVE A BOY A GUN

By Todd Strasser

Age Range: 12 - 14

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-689-81112-8
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Vivid, distressing, and all too real, Strasser’s (Close Call, 1999, etc.) latest work of fiction explores the minds and hearts of a group of students, parents, teachers, and community members whose lives are forever altered by a tragic school shooting. After years of harassment and casual cruelty from the football heroes at Middletown High that is tacitly endorsed by adults in the school, two disturbed, volatile boys arm themselves to the teeth and storm their school dance looking for payback. Although the book’s main message—if these kids couldn’t easily procure weapons, this tragedy could have been averted—comes through loud and clear it is also a denunciation of the value system of an entire community, a community that allowed—even encouraged—a select few to rule by bullying. As the stepsister of one of the gunmen said, “Violence comes in many forms—guns, fists, and words of hate and contempt. Unless we change the way we treat others in school and out, there will only be more, and more horrible tragedies.” The book is not written like a traditional novel; it’s a pastiche of various voices, and the reader pieces the story together through interviews, diary entries, online conversations, and even suicide notes. Despite the fact that the cast is large and it may be difficult for young readers to keep track of who’s who, the multiple points of view create empathy for a wide range of characters and enhance the book’s in-your-face reality. Important, insightful, and chilling. (Fiction. 12-14)