This Is Not a Drill
Nancy Paulsen Books
October 25, 2012
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He'd even get to spend the time with Emery, his ex and the girl he's hoping to convince to forgive him.
And it was simple until the man with the gun walked into the classroom.
Brian Stutts, a young soldier suffering from PTSD, is embroiled in a custody battle but doesn't want to leave it up to the courts. He's going to take his son. And he's willing to hold the classroom full of first graders -- including his son -- along with Jake, Emery and the teach hostage until he gets what he wants.
Whether they get along or not, Jake and Emery are going to have to work together to keep everyone safe.
This is Not a Drill was released last October, before the shooting at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut but it's pretty impossible not to think of that whilst reading it. The situation is quite different, but the children's ages are the same.
Beck McDowell does a great job having Emery and Jake as alternating narrators. We're able to feel their anxiety and fear but it also keeps things from being too tense and fearful. Their efforts to keep the children calmer, also keep the story there.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, its intensity and how focused they both are on the present, we still learn quite a bit about them, their past, and what went wrong in their relationship. It's very nice to get a fuller picture of their characters and to not have to entire book completely focused on the goings on of the classroom and the gunman.
The children are written very well. They have that naivete that's present at their age that both keeps the story from being horrible (with them being terrified the entire time) and is heartbreaking because of what you know they don't know as well as what will change for them.
The ultimate conclusion of This Is Not a Drill felt slightly anticlimactic. Possibly because of all of the build up to it, yet, also, possibly it needed to happen how it did but could have been written slightly differently. Or longer.
I appreciated that the medical issues present in the novel seemed to be treated with respect. The lesser known one was explained fairly well -- for the case presented, at least. It was also nice that there was a small note at the back about what to do if you experienced it.