Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

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This Is Not a Drill
Beck McDowell
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.

 *A copy was provided by Beck McDowell for review purposes*
With only a mere 224 pages, I was surprised by how much power this short little novel emitted. This Is Not a Drill takes us into the lives of two teenage kids who are tutoring first graders, when an angry, unstable post-military father arrives and takes the class hostage.

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. 

4 Hot Espressos
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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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21 Responses to “Review: This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell”

  1. Jenn Renee

    Awesome review. I have seen this book popping around a little lately. I am glad you liked it. I think the cops may have not shown up a lot due to it being a book. We have specialized forces here too, in reality I think they would have been way involved.

  2. Jennifer Messerschmidt

    I really want to read this one. Sounds like a quick thrill. I’m not a kid fan myself lol so glad to hear the kids were admirable and not overly annoying. I have had problems in other reads where the kids just drove me nuts. While it might be a bit unrealistic to reminisce about a past romance I can appreciate it since I’m a big romance fan. The cop thing I guess I can overlook as well since they are probably not supposed to be the main part of the story. I’m not sure at all how that is supposed to be handled but I do sometimes get annoyed when situations are so unbelievably handled. Curious about the gunman’s story and how it all resolves.

  3. Amy

    I have been wanting to read this one since I heard about it. It sounds really good. It seems like it was written very believably with the exception of maybe the cops. Awesome review chick!!

  4. Ems

    This one sounds interesting and heartbreaking all at the same time. I may have to take a pass though, because I’m currently teaching first grade and it might hit a little too close to home. I’d be up all the nights thinking of worst case scenarios!

    Enjoyed your review. 🙂

  5. Sam

    I think I might squeeze this in somewhere. It sounds pretty good! I love that it manages to pack a punch despite being so short. 🙂 Great review, Giselle!

  6. Christina

    That is really weird that the cops weren’t involved at all. They should have been outside like the whole time, and trying to talk the guy down. Don’t they have special psychologists for that kind of stuff?

    I think it’s so funny that the kids were kind-hearted. Children are either like that OR EVIL. They have such capacity for love, but they can also be so unintentionally cruel. This is why children scare me.

    I love when books uplift me and break my heart all at once. So hard to do!

  7. Born Bookish

    I’m always surprised when a book of this size leaves such a huge emotional impact! I’m not sure it’s one I would want to read myself but I’m glad you enjoyed it =)

  8. Alexa

    Wow, this sounds VERY intense. It would probably scare me, I think, just imagining this situation – but I am curious to see how the characters handle it and how it ends up resolved.

  9. Jesse Burgoyne

    The more I hear about this book the more convinced I am I need to read it. I’m no crisis expert either, but I’ve watched enough TV to expect the cops to show up a lot over the course of an entire day! Still, glad you like it. Thanks for the great review 🙂

    Jesse @ Pretty in Fiction

  10. Camille Picott

    I’ve read some other good reviews of this one. I like your point about appreciating a YA book from the perspective of a parent. I felt the same way when I read The Hunger Games.

  11. Shooting Stars Mag

    Great review! I’m really curious about this one. I’m quite fascinated by school shootings and I’ve loved reading fictional takes on the subject for years, so this new version of that has me really interested. I’m glad you found it, overall, realistic and moving.


  12. Chel

    This book sounds scary. Whenever I go anywhere outside the house, I always imagine what will happen if this kind of thing occurred to me. I know it’s a bit paranoid but I never really thought of it reaaally happening. Also, wow. I rarely read books with less than 300 pages because rare are those books with not more than 300 pages that I genuinely loved, so this might be something to look forward to. 😉

  13. Eileen

    Awesome review Giselle! 🙂 This definitely sounds really thrilling and chilling all at the same time! 🙂 And from the way you described it, I can definitely see how this would be really great for parents since they already have that parental love and can sympathize with the whole situation 🙂

  14. Jen (A Reading Daydreamer)

    This is a lovely review, Giselle! I’m definitely interested in this one, now that I’ve read your review! I’m so glad to hear that you were able to connect with the characters and that this book was able to bring about a deep reaction. Great review, once again!

  15. Candace

    I just read this one yesterday and I thought it was clever how the author humanized the gunmen through his talking with Emery. It was a pretty powerful read, I definitely agree.

  16. Megan K.

    Wow, this sounds really good. I’ve seen it around on Goodreads, but never thought to check it out. After reading your review, though, I think I want to now!

    Great review, Giselle! 🙂

  17. Kristilyn (Reading In Winter)

    This book looks SO interesting! It’s funny how we’re so swept up in vampires and shapeshifters and zombies that the stories that are a little closer to home aren’t really talked about. I really look forward to checking this one out!

    Great review, Giselle!

  18. Soma Rostam

    Stories about school shootings, bombing, and kidnapping are really moving. I loved Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes. It was a different perspective, indeed.
    I would love to read about the kids, as my little brother is the highlight in my life, I ADORE him! And I would do anything to keep him and my sister safe.
    LOVED your honest review, Giselle
    It’s flawless, as usual.
    Your constant reader,