Welcome to the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, a place devoted to offering children's book recommendations and advice about the whats and whens and whos and hows of sharing books in the home. Find us on Twitter @HornBook and on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheHornBook

Marching for their lives

Art by Friend of The Horn Book Innosanto Nagara.

The topics of guns, gun safety, and especially school shootings can be difficult to broach. Here are a selection of books that could help get these vital conversations going. Reviews are from the Guide/Reviews Database and were written at the time of each book's publication. See also Shelly Shaffer's 2016 YA Wednesday blog post "Humanizing and Understanding School Shootings: How YA School Shooting Literature Provides Multiple Insights"; find more from The Horn Book here.

Older Fiction

Brown, Jennifer Hate List
408 pp. Little 2009. Trade ISBN 978-0-316-04144-7
Bullied by their classmates, outcasts Valerie and Nick compile a "hate list." To Valerie's horror, the list serves as a roster for Nick's school shooting spree. Set post-massacre and powered by flashbacks, the story intimately explores Valerie's struggle to cope with the tragedy, including coming to terms with her complicated feelings for Nick and understanding her role in the violence.

Cart, Michael Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns
355 pp. HarperTeen 2015. Trade ISBN 978-0-06-232735-2
Sixteen acclaimed authors explore how teenagers interact with guns in this provocative anthology of essays and short fiction. Marc Aronson's strong preface establishes a historical and social context of gun use in America; while the pieces that follow rarely feel moralistic, all turn a clear and critical eye toward the dangerous connections between guns, toxic masculinity, and power.

Deuker, Carl Gutless
329 pp. Houghton 2016. Trade ISBN 978-0-544-64961-3
High school football player Brock Ripley understands the perks of being in the circle of quarterback (and vicious bully) Hunter Gates. But Brock's new friend Richie Fang is Hunter's victim. Does Brock have the guts to stand up for a friend? Sports action plays second string to Deuker's gritty depiction of the dark side of high school athletics and gun violence.

Garden, Nancy Endgame
287 pp. Harcourt 2006. Trade ISBN 0-15-205416-2
A victim of relentless bullying, Gray slowly loses perspective and compassion — and one day he brings a gun to school. His first-person narrative is framed as a post-arraignment interview, itself sandwiched between third-person glimpses of Gray's life in jail, heightening the sense that by the end of Gray's story, there's barely enough of him left to tell it.

Hutchinson, Shaun David Violent Ends
344 pp. Simon Pulse 2015. Trade ISBN 978-1-4814-3745-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-3747-9
A boy walks into his school with a gun and fires, killing and injuring schoolmates. The stories in this novel/anthology hybrid--each written by a different YA author--tackle the events leading up to the tragedy from different perspectives. The focus on tangential connections leaves readers with a sum greater than its parts and room left for them to fill in gaps.

Mazer, Harry Twelve Shots: Outstanding Short Stories About Guns
229 pp. Delacorte 1997. Trade ISBN 0-385-32238-0 1997
This generally strong collection of original stories offers variety in both content and style, from Walter Dean Myers's chilling tale of a messenger boy's paranoid rage to Richard Peck's comical “Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night above Ground.” Two stories involving World War II — Mazer's remembrance of a buddy killed in Europe and Rob Thomas's entry about a crusty veteran —have an especially powerful impact.

Myers, Walter Dean Shooter
225 pp. HarperCollins/Amistad 2004. Trade ISBN 0-06-029519-8 Library binding ISBN 0-06-029520-1
Myers's novel takes the form of a "Threat Analysis Report" following a high school shooting and consists of newspaper articles, police and medical examiner's reports, the journal of the shooter, and a series of interviews with his friends and alleged co-conspirators. This exacting look at the many possible players and causes involved in the horrific events makes for a compelling story.

Nijkamp, Marieke This Is Where It Ends
284 pp. Sourcebooks/Fire 2016. Trade ISBN 978-1-4926-2246-8
At Alabama's Opportunity High, four students give their accounts of a harrowing fifty-four minutes as former student Tyler opens fire on the morning assembly. With narration firmly rooted in the moment and smooth transitions in and out of flashbacks, each first-person account reveals an intricate web of betrayal and pain that connects the four to Tyler and to the horror he has unleashed.


Blumenthal, Karen Tommy: The Gun That Changed America
232 pp. Roaring Brook 2015. Trade ISBN 978-1-62672-084-8
Middle school, high school. This biography of a gun traces the Thompson submachine gun (a.k.a. the Tommy) from its 1918 invention — by former Army officer John Thompson as a potential military weapon — to its use by crooks and bootleggers terrorizing people throughout the next two decades. With thorough research and impeccable documentation, Blumenthal also examines the history of American gun laws, showing the complexity of gun culture. Bib., ind.

Hand, Carol Gun Control and the Second Amendment
112 pp. ABDO/Essential Library 2017. Library binding ISBN 978-1-68078-395-7 Ebook ISBN 978-1-68079-748-0
Middle school, high school. Special Reports series. This volume offers a balanced exploration of gun control and the Second Amendment, examining the topic's past and current history, outlining the issues involved, and discussing possible solutions. Statistical data is included when relevant (though much of the information will be quickly dated); photographs and sidebars (many with tiny type) extend the text. Reading list. Bib., glos., ind.

Harrison, Geoffrey C. and Scott, Thomas F. Lethal Weapons
48 pp. Norwood 2013. Library binding ISBN 978-1-59953-592-0
Gr. 4–6, middle school. Great Debates series. This series entry explores questions surrounding gun control and the Second Amendment through the lens of history. The material is organized chronologically, and the debate format provides two sides to each topic. Sidebars include relevant quotes and further questions for consideration. The writing is serviceable, and the format, which includes stock and archival photos, is approachable. Reading list. Glos., ind.

Hasday, Judy L. Forty-Nine Minutes of Madness: The Columbine High School Shooting
48 pp. Enslow 2012. Library binding ISBN 978-0-7660-4013-7
Gr. 4–6, middle school. Disasters — People in Peril series. Illustrated with effective stock photos, this book offers an overview of the Columbine High School shooting tragedy that shattered America's sense of security in the 1990s. Relying heavily on popular magazine articles and news websites, the author recounts the immediate mayhem, touches on the aftermath, and presents biographical sketches of the perpetrators, concluding with gun control arguments. Reading list, websites. Glos., ind.

Kevin, Brian Gun Rights & Responsibilities
32 pp. ABDO 2012. Library binding ISBN 978-1-61783-315-1
Gr. 4–6, middle school. Gun Education and Safety series. This is a brief introduction to constitutional and legal aspects of gun ownership and use. Two-page spreads on the 1934 National Firearms Act taxing the sale of guns, the 1968 Gun Control Act limiting gun sales, and the 1993 Brady Law instituting a background check for buyers provide historical background to this simplified, even-handed discussion. Captioned photos help break up the text. Glos., ind.

Nakaya, Andrea C. Thinking Critically: Gun Control and Violence
80 pp. ReferencePoint 2013. Library binding ISBN 978-1-60152-606-9
Middle school, high school. Thinking Critically series. Diagrams and sidebars support this well-organized model for classroom discourse. The first chapter introduces the debate surrounding gun control; subsequent chapters present pro and con responses to four key questions. Despite lots of graphic elements, the text-heavy pages may be somewhat off-putting. Two pages of facts and a list of related organizations are appended. Reading list, websites. Ind.


Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more