Published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 5, 2016
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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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.
“Together, we’ll get out. Together, we’ll survive this. Together, we’ll be strong enough to face whatever comes our way. This is where it ends.”
More like, when is this book ever going to end?
Although this book was fairly short (292 pages), it took me ages to read. I had to force myself to keep reading. Nothing about it was compelling, even though it should have been.
For Pete’s sake, we’re at a school shooting.
These things are scary, they’re real, and they happen more often than the news cover. I’ve even had multiple threats for shootings at my school.
So why was I so disinterested in this story?
Every three minutes or so, the perspective changes to a different character. Let’s talk about the longest three minutes ever: full of flashbacks, endless pages of the characters’ thoughts, and nothing happening in general. I really liked where the author tried to go for this book, but I don’t think she ever got there. In the flashbacks, we see different versions of the shooter: caring boyfriend, malicious rapist, gentle brother, helpless victim. However, throughout it all I never truly understood him. Despite pages and pages of seeing what he did, it never clicked on why and how he became the way he was. We see him get bullied, drop out of school, get dumped by his girlfriend, and all these horrible acts. But the thought of coming to school with a gun: where did that come up from? I feel like the author could have explored way more on that aspect when recounting the flashbacks.
The only times I was engaged in the story was where the dialogue was. I wanted to see how the students would react, and the shooter’s reasoning in general. Alas, he was just another misunderstood white boy in a world of changing times. His character was dull, his motives were not substantially justified, and overall I didn’t get what I was quite looking for when picking up this story.
While the book dragged, I did enjoy some moments with the characters we’re reading the story through. Within the 54 minutes, we seem them mend relationships, discover things about themselves, and find growth in turbulent times.
“If you’re afraid, think of tomorrow, because tomorrow will be a new day. Tomorrow, there’ll be new chances.”
However, the execution left much to be desired and the whole time I was reading, I was hoping it would end soon. The events were slow, the characters were mundane despite their unique personalities, and I just didn’t have an emotional impact despite the heavy issues that this book highlights.
In 54 minutes, we see a shooter terrorize a school from the perspectives of four people who are somehow related to him. The addition of a shooter touches on an important topic today, but it never fell through. Instead, we are dragged along pages of memories and flashbacks that became a dull roar by the third one. Student deaths had no effect on me by the fifth one not because I didn’t care, but because it was brushed off so easily. Amidst it all was the growth of the characters this book was told through, but not even that could make me wish this book ended sooner.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5