Todd Strasser has written many critically acclaimed novels for adults, teenagers, and children, including the award-winning Can't Get There from Here, Give a Boy a Gun, Boot Camp, If I Grow Up, Famous, and How I Created My Perfect Prom Date, which became the Fox feature film Drive Me Crazy. Todd lives in a suburb of New York and speaks frequently at schools. Visit him at ToddStrasser.com.
Like Virginia Walter in Making Up Megaboy, Strasser (How I Changed My Life) explores the psyche of adolescents who use handguns to violent ends. Unfortunately, the format used here detracts from the central dramaÄ10th-graders Gary Searle and Brendan Lawlor holding their classmates hostage with firearms and bombs. A portentous author's note ("One of the things I dislike most about guns in our society is that... they rob children of what we used to think of as a childhood") prefaces an excerpt from Gary's suicide note, which is followed by comments from one Denise Shipley, who is studying journalism at the state university and returns to Middletown High "determined not to leave again until I understood what had happened there." The bulk of the novel is comprised of quotes Denise has collected from, among others, the two 10th-graders' parents, teachers and classmates, including nemesis Sam Flach, a football player whose knees they shatter with bullets. These quotes, however, seem arbitrarily arranged into sections; scattered and disconnected, the quotes build little momentum and the overall effect is numbing. Running along the foot of many of the pages are distracting excerpts from the media, Internet postings and statistics from unattributed sources (e.g., "The number of kids killed by firearms has quadrupled in the past ten years"). The revelation in Denise's closing note (that she is Gary's stepsister) and the author's "Final Thoughts" ("It will be your job to keep these ideas alive") provide a heavy-handed ending that may be more off-putting than eye-opening. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 8 Up-Todd Strasser's documentary-styled novel (S&S, 2000) about the confluence of easy access to guns, social tolerance of middle school bullying, the celebrity status of high school athletes, and twists in individual teenage psyches gave high school and adult readers much food for informed consideration of recent highly publicized incidents of school violence. Although this full-cast audiobook claims to be unabridged, one of the essential trappings of the printed text has been stripped here; the nonfiction footnotes that ran throughout the pages of the book are gone, making the audiobook version a wholly fictional, skeletal rendering of Strasser's original blending of supporting fact with realistic fiction. The personal histories and viewpoints of two high school boys who run amok with firearms at a school dance, their parents, childhood and teenage friends and enemies, teachers who wanted to help them and others who scorned them as openly as did the socially conforming football team members, are offered in snippets of suicide notes, reminiscences, and online transcripts. Not many of the readers chosen to speak these many parts fulfill their age roles credibly, which distances listeners from full involvement. This recorded version is no substitute or acceptable alternative for the print; it's a simplified and relentless march to an inevitable conclusion, with no way stations for the imagination.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
* "Both haunting and harrowing, the book deserves a wide
readership, discussion and debate."--"Booklist, "starred review
"A disturbing and provocative novel."--"KLIATT "
"Vivid, distressing, and all too real...The multiple points of view create empathy for a wide range of characters and enhance the book's in-your-face reality. Important, insightful, and chilling."--"Kirkus Reviews"