10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open.
10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.
This had the potential to be a lot better than it actually was.
What I was hoping for: dark, reality-fiction that socked me to the stomach with flawed characters I could really root for.
What I got: a kind of navel-gazey story about brothers and sisters.
I think I’m going to stop reading high-school-shooting books. I guess I’m never going to be able to get behind a book that treats the ownership of guns as something, like, completely normal. Because, for me, it’s not normal to have a gun in your house! I would be freaked the fuck out if I ever ended up within a hundred metre radius of a gun. It’s a gun! A metal tube that shoots bullets and is designed to kill stuff! They use them in wars! It’s like keeping an IED in your back garden!
I had the same thing with Hate List. It weirds me out when books treat something like a high school shooting as ‘something that happens’. I mean, I realise they DO happen in America, and they should absolutely be written about, in the same way that rape and abuse are written about, but I will never get my head around the tone this book (and others) use. Characters weren’t shocked or freaked out that a guy had brought a gun into school and had started killing people. They were terrified, yes. But not shocked.
Because, well ... yes. If you live in a society where you can literally go into a supermarket and buy A GUN, then you will also find yourself living in a society where crazy people use those guns to kill other people.
Christ knows, Britain is no Utopia - we’re finding plenty of ways to screw up our own country, thanks very much - but I don’t think Americans (particularly American authors and publishers) realise how weird it sounds.
Going into a supermarket. And buying a gun.
So, no. No more high-school-shooting books for me.
As for the rest of the book, I didn’t really feel it lived up to my hopes. The characters were bland. I didn’t really manage to get behind them and ultimately I didn’t really care if they got bumped off or not. The lesbian couple, who I had great hopes for, were so tepid it just made me roll my eyes. The track star and her friend/love interest were included for no good reason I could see. There was an interesting delve into the dynamics of family relationships, specifically into the relationships between brothers and sisters, but it needed some interesting characters to bring it to life.
The plot was dull. The kids in the auditorium just sat there while the mad guy picked them off, one by one. There were no mad escape attempts, no tension (astonishingly, for a book about a mass-murder).
And that ending was cringingly cheesey.
I’ve read a couple of reviews that say this book is too scary for younger readers. I wouldn’t necessarily agree. High school shootings do happen and I do think it’s right that it gets written about. But with this book, I’d have more concerns about younger teens slipping into a Boredom Coma than being kept up at night, sleepless and terrified.