Synopses & Reviews
Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD
When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them--a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he's denied access to his son because of a custody battle. The children's fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake's alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.
"When high school seniors Emery and Jake sign up to help teach French to a class of first-graders, they have no idea that an ordinary November morning will turn into a hostage situation. Opening at the hospital in the aftermath ('We started class this morning with our lesson on French words for animals,' Emery tells readers. 'And by the afternoon, three people were dead'), McDowell's debut alternates between Emery and Jake's present-tense narration of the events in the besieged classroom and their memories of their bitter romantic past. The gunman's instability makes for tense and unpredictable reading, but the long sections that revisit Emery and Jake's backstories somewhat diminish the escalating tension. And while certain elements of the story are believable, such as the need to set up a bathroom option for the children and the helplessness Jake and Emery feel, others (like Jake's use of a classroom computer going unnoticed) are harder to buy. Nonetheless, with authentic and distinct narrative voices and a talent for unspooling suspense, McDowell establishes herself as a writer to watch. Ages 12 up. Agent: Jill Corcoran, the Herman Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Fast-paced, suspenseful thriller. . . . The hours-long standoff comes to a dramatic and violent climax. . . . A vividly depicted and gripping tragedy." Kirkus Reviews
“The setup is irresistible, and McDowell’s authentic handling of the confusion and fright of the class of first-graders lends the story a constant undertone of tension. . . . Fans of Todd Strasser and Paul Volponi will relish it.” Booklist
“What makes this story stand out are the discussions between Emery and the gunman, who is suffering from PTSD. . . . . McDowell balances the gunmans plight against his sons shame, fear, and divided loyalties. Written in a format that will appeal to reluctant readers . . . an excellent choice for sparking classroom discussion.” School Library Journal
“Ripped from the headlines. . . . Fast-moving story that will keep the readers attention with bits of humor to lighten the mood. McDowell excels in depicting the voices of the teenage narrators, the first-graders, and a soldier suffering from PTSD.” Library Media Connection
About the Author
Beck (Rebecca) McDowell lives in Huntsville, Alabama. This Is Not a Drill is her first novel.