Book Review: Violent Ends
In a one-of-a-kind collaboration, seventeen of the most recognizable YA writers—including Shaun David Hutchinson, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, and Beth Revis—come together to share the viewpoints of a group of students affected by a school shooting.
It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto the school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.
But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.
This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, playing saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.
Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties. This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.
First of all, let’s get the names of all 17 authors out there so you can start to understand exactly how phenomenal this book is: Steve Brezenoff, Beth Revis, Tom Leveen, Delilah S. Dawson, Margie Gelbwasser, Shaun David Hutchinson, Trish Doller, Christine Johnson, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, Blythe Woolston, E.M. Kokie, Elisa Nader, Mindi Scott, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Kendare Blake, Hannah Moskowitz, and Courtney Summers.
You’re sold already, right?
We meet Kirby in chapter 1. He’s 12 and witnessing some bullying from other kids in his neighborhood. When we see him again, in chapter 2, he’s now a junior in high school. Before we get too many pages into this story, the big event happens: Kirby Matheson walks into his school and opens fire, kills 5 classmates, kills a teacher, wounds many others, and then turns the gun on himself.
The question of “what would push a kid to do something like this?” is asked and answered over and over in the chapters that follow the massacre. The perspectives switch with each chapter and sometimes it takes a little bit to see how this character’s story ties into the larger narrative. We hear from Kirby’s camp friend, Teddy; his friend Zach, who he plays Dungeons and Dragons with; Lauren, the head cheerleader with an eating disorder; Jenny, his onetime girlfriend; Billie, a photographer girl with some secrets; Morgan, who rejected Kirby’s offer to take her to the school dance; Mark, who played a cruel prank on Kirby; the gun Kirby uses; Reba, a girl who ditched the assembly that turned into the massacre; Ray, who used to live in the house Kirby’s family bought; Abby, who appears to have a crush on Kirby; Carah, Kirby’s sister; Ruben, a classmate who falls under suspicion as a possible accomplice; Alice, a stoner who had a crush on one of the kids who gets killed; Laura, Kirby’s old neighbor; and Nate, a classmate with a complicated history with Kirby. It’s an awful lot of perspectives, yes, but it works. It really works. Taken all together, we see not just more pieces of Kirby’s life, but the often dark and always complex lives of everyone involved in the story. In some way or another, they all are involved in Kirby’s story, but they all have rich stories of their own. Their stories include horrible home lives, regret, pressures, confusion, and guilt.
In a lot of ways, it seems like any one of them could be pushed to a breaking point—though maybe not one that would play out like Kirby’s. When we ask ourselves how a kid could do something like shoot up his school, it often feels like the real question is how is it that tragedies like this don’t happen even more often. Together, the 17 authors present a riveting and terrifying look at a tragedy, how we get there, how it affects a community, and how we go on after. They take us beyond the facts of the massacre and past the speculation about what could make a teenager turn into a murderer. Haunting and heartbreaking, this powerful book will remind readers—especially teen readers who have huddled in classrooms during lockdown drills or during the real thing—that we rarely know what’s really going on in someone’s life or how close to the breaking point someone might be.
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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