This Is Not A Drill
“We started class this morning with our lesson on French words for animals. And by the afternoon, three people were dead.” This is how 17-year-old Emery sums up the horrific chain of events which she and her fellow tutor, Jake, endured with eighteen first-graders. The novel, told in alternating narratives between the two teens, recounts the day as it unfolded, with occasional digressions into Emery’s former “heart-stabbing, gut-twisting, butterfly-producing crush” on Jake. As the day begins, Emery and Jake are team-teaching the class under the wise and warm supervision of their teacher, Mrs. Campbell. Normalcy is shattered when Brian Stutts enters the room, demanding to take his son, Patrick. Before long, Stutts – a soldier plagued with post-traumatic stress disorder – pulls out a gun and holds the defenseless group hostage. It is impossible to read this book without thinking of the innocent lives lost in Newtown. Nevertheless, despite – or perhaps, because of – this, it is worth reading. Emery and Jake are tremendously sympathetic, as are Mrs. Campbell and the children. The varied and compelling ways everyone involved interacts with Stutts could lead to excellent discussion in classrooms (or with friends or parents). It is tragic that this fictitious story strikes so close to home, but its first-time novelist handles her subject matter with equal parts skill and sensitivity, creating a thought-provoking read worth sharing.
***Please visit my author interview with Beck!