This Is Not a Drill

This Is Not a Drill

4.5 9
by Beck McDowell
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. (Oct.)
Booklist
“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.”
Library Media Connection
“Ripped from the headlines. . . . Fast-moving story that will keep the reader’s 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.”
From the Publisher
"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 gunman’s plight against his son’s 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 reader’s 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

VOYA - Laura Woodruff
Emery and Jake, seventeen-year-old seniors, have broken up. They are paired to teach French to first graders at Lincoln Elementary School three mornings a week—a job they both enjoy—so they work together and keep old feelings in check, until the morning an armed veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder—Stutts—bursts into the classroom to demand custody of his son, Patrick. As the teacher and teens try to calm the children and alert the principal, Stutts alternately threatens violence and makes demands. He holds everyone hostage, shooting an unarmed school security guard who comes to the door and only allowing Jake to carry the teacher out after she collapses in a diabetic coma. As the day wears on, the police and press are notified. Stutts becomes angry when the classroom television shows a faulty news report, unaware that, by this time, cell phone messages on social networks have covered the whole situation. A struggle ensues as Jake finally goes for Stutts' gun. Written in alternating chapters using different fonts for Emery and Jake, This Is Not A Drill is a flashback from Jake's hospital room. A first novel by former high school English teacher McDowell, the story is long on description and disturbingly disjointed in both character and action. Near the end of the novel, after a long period of absence from the pages, Stutts, painted as deranged, delivers a long, coherent dialogue explaining his point of view and immediately shoots himself. Other similar inconsistencies affect credibility. Reviewer: Laura Woodruff
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—High school students Jake and Emery have been paired up to teach French three mornings a week to Mrs. Campbell's first-grade class. They're in the middle of a lesson when a student's father bursts through the classroom door to get his son. Mrs. Campbell cannot release the boy until she is given permission from the office, and she stands her ground even after the man pulls a gun, but when the diabetic teacher goes into insulin shock, Jake and Emery are left alone to deal with the children and the gunman. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of the two teens. It shifts between what's taking place in the classroom and memories of events in their lives, including their own failed relationship. What makes this story stand out are the discussions between Emery and the gunman, who is suffering from PTSD. He tells her about his experiences in Iraq and how they have affected his life back home. He talks about how his frequent violent nightmares have led to his pending divorce and the loss of custody of his son. Despite the fact that he is holding a classroom of first graders hostage at gunpoint, readers clearly see that he is as much a victim as the school security guard he just shot. McDowell balances the gunman's plight against his son's shame, fear, and divided loyalties. Written in a format that will appeal to reluctant readers, this first novel is an excellent choice for sparking classroom discussion.Cary Frostick, Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA
Kirkus Reviews
In this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller, two high-school seniors and a classroom full of first-graders are held hostage at gunpoint by a distraught, emotionally disturbed parent. Classmates and former couple Emery and Jake have signed up to teach French to Mrs. Campbell's first-grade class three mornings a week. One day, their lesson is interrupted when Brian Stutts, an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, barges into the room and demands his son, Patrick. Stutts is having a custody dispute with his estranged wife. When the teacher refuses to let Stutts take his son, he draws a gun. A security guard appears at the door, and the startled Stutts shoots him dead. When Mrs. Campbell lapses into a diabetic seizure, Emery and Jake are left to comfort the children and placate Stutts. Despite their own fears and self-doubts, revealed in alternating present-tense chapters, the teens are remarkably composed outwardly. Their history together and personal back stories--Jake has been adrift since his mother died; Emery has a nervous condition that brings on panic attacks--help keep readers involved as the pages turn. The hours-long standoff comes to a dramatic and violent climax, but the loose ends of the story are tied up too easily. Nevertheless, a vividly depicted and gripping tragedy. (Thriller. 12 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399257940
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
10/25/2012
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
296,594
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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