This Is Not a Drill
Publication date: October 25th 2012
by Nancy Paulsen Books
A father who misses his son.
A soldier home from war.
A man with nothing to lose.
When Brian Stutts walks into a first-grade classroom with a gun, Emery and Jake’s world is blown apart. They’re just teenagers helping to tutor some kids, but now they’re at the centre of a deadly hostage crisis.
While Jake tries to get a secret message to the outside world, Emery reaches out to the desperate, unstable man. But Brian Stutts is holding the gun, and one way or another he’s not leaving without his son.
This situation is a real tragedy that we sadly see happen in our world much too often. School shootings, school bombings; any school disaster is a parent’s worst fear. To get a call that your first grader is in a classroom with an unstable gunman is unimaginable. For this reason, although this book is clearly a YA novel and anyone of any age would likely enjoy it, I think readers who are parents will get the most out of this story. Because, not only do we care about the teenagers and feel for the situation, we understand the very big picture of this tragedy. We care about the parents outside who are sick with worry for their little ones, we can easily put ourselves in their shoes. We also care about what the teenagers are doing at a deeper level. Every single thing they do to help these kids is every single thing I would hope someone would be offering my kid as a comfort if this would happen. We also understand the kids perspective – at least I feel I understand kids a lot more since I had my own. While I’m not saying those without children will not get all of this, I’m thinking the level of poignancy this book will have on a parent will be heightened.
With that said, the strongest and best part of this novel is, in fact, the kids. Kids may scream, irritate, and simply be unforgivably annoying sometimes, but they are incredibly generous, supportive, and so kind-hearted. The way Beck portrays the children is this book is both realistic and wonderfully uplifting. I found that part to be exactly what I could imagine happening in this situation, from tears to fears to the oblivious cheers.
The teenagers, at least at first, had me a little less impressed. They kept reminiscing on their past relationships a little too much during this crisis. I also had a hard time keeping track of the two perspectives that weren’t distinct enough. After a while, however, they became a lot more real, and their actions during the whole event were definitely admirable. I loved the way they handled every dilemmas from potty time to high-stake traumas. I was also deeply moved by the gunman’s story. Making me extremely surprised by just how much punch this little book could pack at every turn.
One minor complaint of mine, was the reaction, or lack thereof, from the cops. We have people specialized in hostage negotiations who are trained to go into situations like this and diffuse it, but in the whole day it took to go through this story, the cops barely made a peep. I found this a little doubtful. I understand it’s a very complicated situation especially when kids are involved, and I’m no expert, but I would think they would have done more.
This Is Not a Drill delivers an intense thriller that will make you feel equally hopeful and heartbroken. It’s a powerful novel that is bound to move you, not only from the tears of a child, but from the laughter that only they can bring.
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