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Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

Give a Boy a Gun
Give a Boy a Gun
Todd Strasser
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Literature & Fiction
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; First Edition edition (September 1, 2000)
128 pages
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1253 kb
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1229 kb
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Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser
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BANG! Gunshots echo through the gym. Two heavily armed students, Gary and Brendan, hold their classmates hostage at a high school dance. Their targets: the football players and teachers who have tormented them. Their weapons: semiautomatic rifles stolen from a neighbor. Their motive: revenge. In Give a Boy a Gun, the interweaving voices of students, teachers, friends, and the gunmen themselves re-create the harrowing crisis at Middletown High and the reasons behind Gary and Brendan's rampage. Mirroring the voices on each page are facts about guns and school violence that offer a blistering counterpoint to a tragedy that rings dreadfully true to life. A stunning work of fiction taken straight from today's headlines, Give a Boy a Gun is a stirring wake-up call to stop the violence and explore the role of guns in the lives of teenagers.

  • felt boot
Grade: B+

In the aftermath of a school shooting and bombing, a recent graduate and journalism returns to her alma mater to interview survivors and witnesses to try to reconstruct what lead Brendan and Gary to do the unthinkable. What she finds is a history of relentless bullying by jocks, teachers and administrators who looked the other way and justified the bullying and students who accepted the status quo.

Rather than a traditional narrative, Todd Strasser wrote GIVE A BOY A GUN as a series of interview snippets, a few internet chats, the boys' suicide notes and some real quotes articles about actual school. I thought Strasser's approach was a great way to give different POVs and to not only show the failure of some of the adults to address the school hierarchy and bullying, but their almost blaming the victims for being bullied. Strasser never suggests that Gary and Brendan were justified in their violence, but that their violence wasn't created in a vacuum. Could their actions have been prevented? Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Brendan seemed to have more inner demons that preceded any bullying. Gary seemed to have been more affected by events at school. Readers will ultimately make their own judgments.

THEMES: school violence, bullying, friendship, divorce

GIVE A BOY A GUN is a thoughtful look at the making of two school shooters.
  • Fomand
To tell the story of two alienated and disaffected teenagers who become obsessed with guns and bombs and ultimately vow to exact revenge on all the students, faculty members, and administrators at their school, Todd Strasser uses a quilt of voices to reflect the incomplete narrative that inevitably emerges from tragedies such as these.

None of the characters in this chronicle is developed in any conventional sense—and the underdevelopment of the characters, along with the hazy sense of plot, unconventional structure, and overall sense of detachment—are probably calculated and strategic risks to reflect the theme of incomprehensibility and senseless loss that accompanies the events in this novel (if this book may even be classified as a novel).

Brief portions of the narrative lapse into preachy homilies about bullying and tolerance, but it’s tough to object when there are no easy solutions. An unexpected and ironic development at the climax of the violence highlights the complexity of the issue, and no one escapes blame. Strasser acknowledges that we are all culpable—to some extant—for a culture that values violence over empathy.
  • Prince Persie
This book begins with a graphic description of what happens when a bullet enters a brain. Like Columbine, it is the story of two outsiders who plot then carry through a grisly revenge on their fellow students who tormented them. Teachers, parents and other students from prom queens to geeks all are given space to recap the school shooting for the reader. The sense of alienation and confusion these people feel comes through clearly. It is an original way of exploring what might make two seemingly ordinary suburban teenagers "snap."
  • Inerrace
I enjoy Todd Strasser's books, but this wasn't one of my favorites. Still, good book to keep on the shelf for reluctant adolescent readers.
  • Washington
  • I'm a Russian Occupant
It was age appropriate for a 14 year old. My daughter enjoyed the small captions which gave real statistics about guns and the dangers of allowing young men and ladies (middle to high school ) to possess them. Please, be aware!
  • Andromakus
Not as riveting as I expected it to be but still an interesting read
I bought this book interested in the fictional stories produced around school shootings. Granted, I understand that some may use this story as a tool to understand the Columbine shootings, but for being a work of fiction, I was quite disappointed in its lack of creativity. Even the two main characters directly reflected Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold down to their specific preference in video games and music. It would be a good book for very young readers and I can appreciate how it was laid out and told, however I was personally not impressed with its lack of originality for fiction writing because it just felt to me as if the author got away with publishing a book of changed names of real people/events.