Give a Boy a Gun

Give a Boy a Gun

by Todd Strasser

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780689848933
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 04/28/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 157,967
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt

Introduction Around 10 P.M. on Friday, February 27, Gary Searle died in the gymnasium at Middletown High School. After the bullet smashed through the left side of his skull and tore into his brain, he probably lived for ten to fifteen seconds.

The brain is a fragile organ suspended in a liquid environment. Not only does a bullet destroy whatever brain tissue is in its path, but the shock waves from the impact severely jar the entire organ, ripping apart millions of delicate structures and connections. In the seconds that follow, the brain swells with blood and other fluids. The parts of the brain that control breathing and heartbeat stop. One doctor described it to me as "an earthquake in the head."

At the moment of Gary's death I was in the library at the state university, where I was a sophomore studying journalism. As soon as I heard the news, I went home to Middletown, determined not to leave until I understood what had happened there.

Returning to Middletown was like stepping into a thick fog of bewilderment, fury, agony, and despair. For weeks I staggered through it, searching out other lost, wandering souls. Some were willing to talk to me. Others spoke because they felt a need to defend themselves even though no one had pointed an accusing finger at them. Some even sought me out because they wanted to talk. As if speaking about it was a way of trying to figure it out, of beginning the long, painful process of grieving and moving ahead.

Some refused to speak because it must have been too painful. For others, I suspect it was because they had learned something about themselves that they were still struggling to accept --or to conceal.

I spoke to everyone who would speak to me. In addition I studied everything I could find on the many similar incidents that have occurred in other schools around our country in the past thirty years.

The story you are about to read is really two stories. One is about what happened here in Middletown. The other is the broader tale of what is happening all around our country -- in a world of schools and guns and violence that has forever changed the place I once called home. The quotes and facts from other incidents are in a different-style print. What happened in Middletown is in plain print.

This, then, is the story of what I learned. It is told in many voices, in words far more eloquent and raw than any I could have thought of on my own. It is a story of heartbreak and fear and regret. But mostly it is a warning. Violence comes in many forms -- guns, fists, and words of hate and contempt. Unless we change the way we treat others in school and out, there will only be more -- and more horrible -- tragedies.

-- Denise Shipley

Copyright © 2000 by Todd Strasser

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Give a Boy a Gun 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 167 reviews.
supermegafoxyawsomehawt More than 1 year ago
This book teaches us all a lesson. I decided to get this book from my local library because i am a big fan of this author. I was exieted to finally read it because all books i had read by Todd Strasser metioned how he wrote this. This book is basicaly made up of interveiws to witnesses of a school shooting. But i goes alot deeper than that. It pieces together an unforgetable story. There are times when u wanna take the main characters Gary and Brennen, give em a good shake, and point them in the rite direction. They are the "bad guys" but you find yourself caring for them along the way. Earlier when i said that this book teaches a lesson, i was talking about the footnotes it has at the bottom of many pages. It shows heartbreaking facts about guns and teens. Please read, this book connects and stays with you
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Every person in the world should read this book. That being said, I'll admit right off that I hate guns. Absolutely abhor them. I'm the mother who refuses to let her children play with toy guns, even water pistols. Why? Why, indeed. Why let your children shoot things at each other--whether it be water, rubber darts, BBs, or paint balls--if you don't want them to shoot bullets at each other? After all, that's what guns are for. To shoot bullets. Bullets that are designed to do one thing, and one thing only--kill. Or, if you prefer, injure, maim, dismember, or wound.

So what is GIVE A BOY A GUN about? In a few words, human nature, the cruelty of children, and how those factors don't really mix well with guns. Oh sure, gun activists say that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." And, if you get technical about it, they're right. But when someone gives you a guitar, what's it for? It produces musical sounds. Yes, it needs an actual human to aide it along, but a guitar does what it's made to do--make music. Just like a gun, with the aide of a human, does what it's supposed to do--kill.

In Todd Strasser's GIVE A BOY A GUN, we learn about Brendan and Gary, two boys who live each day of school in their own personal hell. They're not athletic, so the jocks pick on them. They're not particularly brainy, so they don't fit in with the nerds. They don't come from extremelely wealthy families, so they're not immediately deemed popular. In fact, Brendan and Gary are like 95% of every teenager you meet--normal kids living normal lives, trying their best to just get through the day. I remember all too well the horror and terror of high-school; not physical, at least in my case, but the sheer emotional bullying that I received from kids who deemed me not up to par. And the teachers who turn a blind eye, either because the tormentors were too valuable to the school as athletes, or too much trouble to deal with.

But for Brendan and and Gary, enough turns out to be enough. Really, how much torment can one person take? When teachers and administration and counselors turn the other way, when budget restraints prevent teachers from the ability to really get to know their students, when athleticism takes precedent over brain power, when will school bullying come to an end? Why, really, should it shock us as a nation when things like Columbine happen? Has it really been so long ago that you were in school that you can't remember what it was like to be the object of someone's daily put-downs, or the sneers and snide comments from the "popular" kids?

Gary and Brendan, along with a few others like them, were "outcasts" in their school. When their fascination with revenge on those who've tormented them leads to guns, it really shouldn't surprise anyone. GIVE A BOY A GUN is interspersed with tragic facts--school shootings over the last several decades, quotes from newspaper articles, statistics from gun companies--that prove that teens and guns is a growing problem. But really, when you think about it, why should it shock us? We always see signs that proclaim a school a "drug-free zone", but when will we ever see one that proclaims it a "bully-free zone", or a "tolerance for everyone" zone?....

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lillysoto More than 1 year ago
I personally thought this book was a story that needs to be told for everyone to know what can happen in reality. This book teches many of us a lesson. One would be to respect eachother and when you see someone being bullied you need to help. Dont judge them for how they look or how they are. Because in the end itll be your fault. Thiis book taught me a valuable lessson indeed. I loved it and it certainly chnaged my perspective on many things. I loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From my teacher it was amazing.
tiamatq on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Give a Boy a Gun tells the story of a Columbine-like school shooting. Gary and Brendan had suffered through years of bullying and abuse from classmates, were ignored by teachers and school staff, and considered themselves outcasts. They lash out during a school dance, locking the gym and taking everyone there as hostages. The book examines these events, as well as the years that led up to that night, by interviewing all the other characters about Gary and Brendan's childhoods and time in junior high and high school. This was a tough read and I think it's an important one. Throughout the story, Strasser includes footnotes that list statistics about school violence, guns, and bullying. These are not obtrusive, and I thought they enhanced the story, further cementing it in reality. What I liked best about Give a Boy a Gun is that it presents multiple sides of most of the issues - no one group is clearly in the right. Not all of the football players are jerks and Brendan and Gary aren't glorified for their actions. Teachers that are seen by some as uncaring jerks get to express their own feelings and show their struggle with how to operate in the school. There are issues, though, where the author makes his opinion very clear (gun control, specifically). This book is an excellent way to start discussions on school violence, bullying, and guns.
iluvvideo on LibraryThing 7 months ago
A tale all too chillingly real in current school environments.Two young men, Brendan and Gary are victims of teasing and physical bullying by members of the 'in' group (the jocks on the football team). Unable and unwilling to endure any more abuse they approach teachers and others to get some help to end the harassment. Unfortunately, they are told 'it's in their genes' and 'boys will be boys'.The boys decide to take matters into their own hands and develop a plan of retribution to gain their revenge on the assailants and others who just refuse to get involved. Eerily similar to the incidents at Columbine, this story reads as a wake up call to what happens in school environments. Teachers and administrators, parents and police share responsibility and a share of the blame of the tragedy. The book also contains many statistics about guns and gun control and also resources for help or information to those seeking it.I'm so grateful that this happened only in a book. Let's make this required reading in middle and high school environments and try to abort any possibility of similar events ever happening again.
ERMSMediaCenter on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Events leading up to a night of terror at a high school dance are told from the point of view of various people involved.
amydross on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I'm not sure how I feel about the format of this novel. I opened it thinking it was a novel, but the author handled the documentary-style format well enough that I became convinced it was an account of a real shooting. And I was horrified -- not so much at the murderous boys, but at the teachers and administrators at their school. I've seen movies and stuff about high schools where football is valued more highly than education, but this seemed really extreme. I simply couldn't believe how callous some of the teachers were about the favoritism given to the athletes, and the abuse heaped on the rest of the students. But then, about halfway through, enough improbabilities mounted up that I doublechecked the story and discovered it was fiction. So... now I'm not sure what to believe. I'm inclined to think the football stuff is really not representative of the real world. And a lot of stress is put on the idea that the boys were deliberately seeking out popular kids and hated teachers as targets... but if this is at all based on Columbine, my understanding is that's a misrepresentation. I've read elsewhere that there really was no rhyme or reason to the victims at Columbine -- the boys wanted everyone, not just athletes or popular kids or people who had harassed them. So then it began to feel like the author was just making up facts to support her case. And to some degree, that's always the way in fiction, but I wonder if the rules change a bit when you are dealing with such an emotionally charged issue in such a pseudo-journalistic way. Then it starts to seem a little cheap -- because I know that she has a point she wants to make about gun control and bullying and whatnot. But she has built a book for the purpose of supporting her point. If she had wanted to, she could have created a story that put the blame for school violence on the lollypops the nurse was handing out -- there are no rules in fiction, after all.
mrsdwilliams on LibraryThing 7 months ago
I have read several novels about school shootings and this is by far the best and most thought-provoking. Written after the Columbine shootings, it is told mainly from the perspective of two boys who are constantly bullied and dream up a way to get their revenge. In footnote style, Strasser adds statistics and news reports relating to real-life episodes of school violence.I read this book to a class of freshmen and they were spellbound. As we read, we were also able to have some profound discussions about the causes of this type of violence and how we are all responsible for making school a place where everyone feels safe.
smg626 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Although not easy reading, this book brings attention to an important issue that absolutely must be addressed, school violence. As a secondary school teacher and a parent of a teen, I would promote the reading of this book to raise awareness of the importance of not only weapons control, but emotional and psychological issues facing people.
mjspear on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Earnest, if somewhat dispassionate, look at the issue of violence in schools. Loosely based upon the Columbine shootings, Brendan and Gary, long bullied and ignored, open fire at a school dance. Strasser does an admirable job of presenting all sides of the story and includes factoids and references for further study. (Most alarming to this reader was the indifference of the Columbine counselors.)
Kaybowes on LibraryThing 7 months ago
More of a psychological look at the minds of two boys commiting a school violence crime, than a mystery
buchanst on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Wow! Everyone should read this book
1pp02gro on LibraryThing 7 months ago
It was a good book and there was a lot of action and i thought it had a good ending.
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
To tell the story of two alienated and disaffected teenagers who become obsessed with guns and bombs and ultimately vow to exact revenge on all the students, faculty members, and administrators at their school, Todd Strasser uses a quilt of voices to reflect the incomplete narrative that inevitably emerges from tragedies such as these. None of the characters in this chronicle is developed in any conventional sense—and the underdevelopment of the characters, along with the hazy sense of plot, unconventional structure, and overall sense of detachment—are probably calculated and strategic risks to reflect the theme of incomprehensibility and senseless loss that accompanies the events in this novel (if this book may even be classified as a novel). Brief portions of the narrative lapse into preachy homilies about bullying and tolerance, but it’s tough to object when there are no easy solutions. An unexpected and ironic development at the climax of the violence highlights the complexity of the issue, and no one escapes blame. Strasser acknowledges that we are all culpable—to some extant—for a culture that values violence over empathy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ugh. More anti gun propaganda from the crazy naive fools who believe guns are the problem, not the people holding them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so good yet so sad, that i had to read it in one day. And it really made me think of what our world is coming to, and i hope that this will not happen to me when i enter high school.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LTMAYVILLE More than 1 year ago
GREAT DESCRIPTIONS! I think the book Give a boy a Gun by Todd Strasser deserves 3 stars because the characters told what was going on and what they saw. Another good thing about this book is that is uses good word choice like epiphany when Brendan got tackled by Paul Burns who was the hero. I like that it included both suicide notes in the paper. I recommend this book to someone who wants to visualize when he or she wants to read it. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would be his friend. I would help him overcome what happened. I believe that brendan influenced Gary to do what he did. I believe that if Brendan hadn't moved to little town, this wouldn't have happened to Gary. Face it America, what they did was wrong, but kids like Sam Flach pushed them over the edge. I believe Bredan took a good kid, brought guns into his life and influenced him to be a killer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is admazing. You find yourself feelimg sorry for Gray amd Brenden because you can see why they did it but at the same time it is hard to believe that some one can kill another. This book unlocks the minds of two very troubled boys but at the same time opens you to the victuims of bulling and how far some one is willing to go.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago