Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

This Is Not a Drill When high school seniors—and former couple—Emery and Jake find themselves held hostage in a first grade classroom, they must do all they can to protect the kids. Brian Stutts, a U.S. soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in Iraq, pulls out his gun to convince the teacher to hand over the son he’s not allowed to check out because of a custody battle. The situation turns deadly when a security guard appears at the door and Stutts impulsively opens fire. When the teacher is carried from the room, the children's fate is in the hands of Emery and Jake. While Jake searches for a way to communicate with the policemen surrounding the building, Emery, fighting her shyness, fear, and POTS symptoms, tries to reach out to the soldier. She gains a new understanding of what he faced in Iraq, and discovers remarkable strength in his small son.

My Review:
This is Not a Drill was a great book.  It is suspenseful and kept me engaged in the story the entire time.  I couldn't put it down because I constantly wanted to know what would happen next to the characters.  I didn't want anything bad to happen to them, and I was worried about them.


This story is told in the alternating POVs of Emery and Jake, people who used to date and now teach French together to 1st graders.  Both of their characters were well-developed.  Emery has symptoms of a syndrome known as POTS.  Her symptoms include having panic attacks.  There are some moments during the book when she feels like she could have a panic attack, but she doesn't.  She tries to connect with Brian Stutts by asking him about his experience in Iraq.  Jake is the mayor's son.  He's gotten into some trouble in the past because he was friends with a guy who used drugs.  The friend got busted by the police for having drugs, and Jake was there, so he got into trouble too.

The first graders in the story are great characters.  Since they are so young, it is clear that having a man with a gun in their classroom could really scare them.  Some of them definitely do have moments when they get scared and cry, but they also stay strong through the situation.  The kids in the book can vary from sweet to dramatic to scared.  They each have distinct personalities.  Reading about these kids made the book even more heart-wrenching because I worried that something would happen to them.

Brian Stutts was an interesting character.  He was hard to like since he was wielding a loaded gun in a classroom of first graders, yet, when he started talking about his experiences in Iraq, I could feel sympathy towards him.  I don't think his actions are excused in any way by what happened to him, but I think somebody needs to help him with his PTSD.  He saw some horrible things over in Iraq, and I can see why he would be traumatized by them.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.


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