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books and reading

This Is Where It Ends

Title: This Is Where It Ends

Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Genre: YA thriller

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: book with something broken on the cover

This book was on my kindle because I had bought it at some point, but I couldn’t remember why or even what it was about. But when I was scrolling through the books on my TBR and saw the broken chalk on this cover, it was an easy pick for the prompt. Turns out, it’s about a school shooting.

Columbine changed this country. I was actually in my first year of teaching when it happened. The ramifications were immediate. Dress codes changed, security changed, lockdown drills were created. Then Sandy Hook happened. I was at home with my new baby watching that unfold on the news. I remember wondering if I would ever be comfortable sending him to school. And I mostly am okay with it due to our school’s security, but having him at home virtual learning because of the pandemic definitely makes me worry less. Then Parkland happened. And…. nothing changed. No laws changed. No action taken. Apparently, this country needs guns more than it needs children.

From Goodreads: Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun…

10:00 a.m.: The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
10:02 a.m.: The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03: The auditorium doors won’t open.
10:05: Someone starts shooting.

In 54 minutes, four students must confront their greatest hopes, and darkest fears, as they come face-to-face with the boy with the gun.

Given the terrible topic, this book was good. It’s odd to me that books like this are published, when Stephen King wrote about a school shooting in one of his earliest books, Rage, but he has let it go out of print due to the horrific subject. Are we desensitized to school shootings at this point? Seems like it. No one is shocked anymore when they happen. And nothing changes. I wonder when people will take a stand and do something about it.

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books and reading

2019 Wrap-Up

My goal is always to read more pages than the year before, rather than more books. I  almost made it this year, by Goodreads standards. In 2018, I read 110 books for 36914 pages, and in 2019 I read 132 books for 36038 pages. A good chunk of the books I read were ones I edited, which are kids’ books and pretty short. If I count all the books I edited that aren’t on Goodreads, I definitely surpassed the page number goal.

Here are some reviews for the highlights of my reading year.

Best book I read this year: The Book of M by Peng Shepherd. It’s dystopian, but in a way I had never read before. And it gutted me. I read it in January, and it’s stayed with me all year. I think about it a lot.

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. Wow. As a parent, this one is horrifying. About a little girl who is a sociopath and has a desire to harm her mother. But it’s so good.

I really enjoyed The Fourth Monkey series. It’s a “police catching a serial killer” series, and the dialogue is cheesy, but it kept me guessing.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. An excellent ghost story.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Same author as The Goldfinch. I just love everything she writes.

The Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder is another great police detective series, but it’s very graphic. Birdman is the first.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay. Another one that left me guessing. I’ve read a few of Tremblay’s books, and he’s really good.

The Girls by Emma Cline. This one was wacky. It’s a fictional story of the Charles Manson group and subsequent murders.

The Run of His Life: The People vs OJ Simpson. I couldn’t believe how much I learned from this book. I know a lot about the case already, but this had info I had never heard.

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. I really don’t care for fantasy, but these are excellent young adult books.

The Dublin Murder Squad books by Tana French. I read two of them this year. Each one is better than the last. In the Woods is the first, the Likeness is the second, Faithful Place is the third.

Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. I read a lot of true crime, but this one stands out. The author is simultaneously doing research into a crime, yet learning things about herself. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Again, another I was expecting not to think was so great, but I was blown away. Crichton really was ahead of his time in describing DNA, technology, etc.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen. Unlike Columbine by the same author (EXCELLENT BOOK) this one doesn’t focus on the shooter or the day, but rather the students who started a movement for gun control. Gives me hope for the future.

I read some great own voices books this year: A Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob, and Shanghai Girls by Lisa See were both great.

Best thriller I read was The Silent Patient. It wasn’t the greatest thriller ever, but it didn’t fall into the stupid thriller tropes like A Woman in the Window. Ugh that one was awful.

I started a lot of great series this year: the Harry Hole detective series, the Penny Green series about a Victorian reporter who also solves crimes, the Armand Gamache Canadian detective series, which is a good cozy mystery series.

 

 

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books and reading

Parkland

Let me start this off by saying that if you think the Parkland kids need to stay in their lane, are crisis actors, or don’t support any kind of gun reform, stop reading. This post isn’t for you.

I was in my first year of teaching when Columbine happened. I came home from a day with my sixth graders to terrible news. I was riveted, watching children running, crying, climbing out of windows, and I had no idea how much my world would change. We had drills, needed key cards to get into locked doors, students had a stricter dress code with no black, no concert shirts, no trenchcoats allowed. Even though we had drills, I have taught in some very unsafe buildings, though.  Doors were unlocked, no police presence, and it terrified me. And the thought of arming teachers is sickening, as one teacher says in this book, (paraphrasing) “how can you ask me to kill one of my own students?” and it’s true. Teachers are nurturers, provide guidance and support, and in an instant, we would be expected to shoot one of ours. It’s unthinkable.

I followed the Parkland story closely, but I had no idea what all these kids accomplished. And I call them kids with the utmost respect. They are. It’s simple. Most of them were 16 or 17 when they were forced into adulthood, well before they were ready. Many didn’t handle it well, although some did, finding their voices overnight, some within hours, even. A dozen of the survivors came together in a perfect storm of media and made a life-changing decision. They were going to tackle gun reform.

These kids handled themselves brilliantly. They took on lawmakers and politicians. They rallied millions in March For Our Lives. They recruited other teens across the country to join their cause. And they did it with very little adult help. Simply, they are a true inspiration. I was absolutely in awe of these amazing young people.

Written by Dave Cullen, the same author who wrote one of the most important, yet harrowing books I’ve ever read, Columbine, this book has a very different tone. Columbine is hard to read. It is as gut-wrenching and painful as it is gripping and horrifying. The story is about HOW. How could the Columbine shooting have happened? How did the shooters come together with this plan? How did the survivors manage their lives? How have we changed because of this event? Because it was published ten years after the shooting, Cullen had plenty of time to research and draw conclusions. Parkland is simply about these kids and all they have accomplished. Clearly, Cullen supports gun reform (just check out his twitter feed) and this book makes no bones about what the kids are trying to accomplish. But Cullen also simply reports. He watches the kids, follows them on tours, interviews them, and, on occasion, gets into their inner sanctum office. This book isn’t a profile of any particular kid, even though the movement definitely has it’s more well-known faces, but an excellent portrayal of how they worked together to change the country, and I’m a firm believer that these kids have.

I only teared up once. My gut was never wrenched. My heartstrings were never pulled. Instead, I was motivated, proud, inspired, and in awe of these amazing kids.