Monday 19 November 2012

324. This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

This I Not a Drill by Beck McDowell
Published November 2012 Hardie Grant

From the publisher:
The door swings open and a man walks in like he owns the place. He raises his fist. Gripping a handgun. Aimed directly at the teacher. Emery finds it awkward as hell tutoring a bunch of grade-one kids with her ex-boyfriend. It's not easy for Jake either - he knows Emery thinks he's useless, especially after what he did to her. But when a boy's father turns up at school with a gun, a bad situation for Emery and Jake suddenly turns deadly. The boy's father - a soldier home from Iraq - says he just wants to spend time with his kid. But resistance from the teacher has deadly consequences. The man isn't afraid of opening fire, even in front of the children. And one way or another, he's not leaving without his son.

Imagine you are a 16 year old girl, who has recently broken up with her boyfriend, he is not your favourite person.  Imagine then that you have been partnered with him to teach French to grade one kids.  That is not the way you want to spend three mornings a week.   When that grade one class is held at gunpoint by an angry ex military father of one of the students, well that ex-boyfriend turns out to be the only person you can turn to.

That is the story of Emery and Jake.  Told from dual perspectives we witness the horror that occurs in this primary school classroom one autumn morning.  The day starts off like any normal day, but when Brian Stutts walks into the classroom to take his son Patrick home, everything starts to go wrong.  Caught up in a custody battle Brian Stutts feels that if he wants to see his son, he has no other option; he has take him out of class in the middle of a school day. When Mrs Campbell doesn't let this happen, he pulls out a gun, and the class of 6 year olds, Mrs Campbell, Emery and Jake become prisoners.

As the morning unfolds, Mrs Campbell needs urgent medical attention, and that leaves Emery and Jake.  Their main concern is to keep the kids clam and occupied, which they manage to do remarkably well. Emery attempts to talk to Stutts, to show him empathy as a way to earn his trust, and hopefully survive, while Jake uses the one thin thread of technology left to them to keep the outside world informed as to what is going on inside the classroom. While we are watching the drama unfold in the classroom, both Emery and Jake reflect on their relationship, their first meeting, their romantic first night, and their horrible breakup, and we can see their relationship turning, as Emery learns to trust Jake again.  

I don't think I have come across a book like this for teenagers before. It is definitely a book for teenagers, but has themes and a style very similar to adults novels in the same genre. This book is so much like an adult book I read many years ago called Fortress by Gabrielle Lord, although I can't remember too many specifics the premise is very similar.

Who will like this book: Boys and girls age 15+
Read it if you like: Suspense

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