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Marching for their lives

Art by Friend of The Horn Book Innosanto Nagara.

With the horror of having to update this booklist yet again: 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. 

Older Fiction

Bliss, Bryan Thoughts & Prayers: A Novel in Three Parts
448 pp. Greenwillow 2020. Trade ISBN 978-0-06-296224-9 
"When was the last time she'd actually felt safe? She knew the exact minute of the exact day." Claire didn't die in the North Carolina school shooting that took the lives of three fellow students and a teacher, but she is a victim nevertheless, and so are Eleanor and Brezzen, whose lives are intertwined with Claire's, in Bliss's affecting narrative triptych. Claire's troubled existence at her new school in Minnesota is plotted out with precision, as she must decide "which routes to take in the hallway, which teachers would understand when she needed to just put her head down," and how to keep "monstrous" thoughts at bay. Where Claire is troubled, Eleanor is angry, her rage-infused first-person voice represented by the iconoclastic "Fuck Guns" T-shirt she made after the incident. Her fury is directed at teachers, coaches, school board members, the whole town in North Carolina, where "it has been an entire year and nobody has done a damn thing." Brezzen has retreated into his fantasy-game world of Wizards & Warriors, with its Game Masters, dragons, and skeleton hordes. In each memorable narrative thread, characters are distinct and carefully drawn, though the author's hand is at times evident in language too adult-sounding ("It must be difficult to be a creation...To lose all sorts of...I don't know. Agency, maybe. Control?") and in advice offered by helpful teachers. But the three stories do yield "an honest picture of healing after trauma," as the author hopes for in his acknowledgments.

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.

Giles, Amy That Night
309 pp. HarperTeen 2018. Trade ISBN 978-0-06-249577-8 Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-249579-2
Jess Nolan and Lucas Rossi demonstrate very different responses to tragedy in the year after a mass shooting at a movie theater in their Queens neighborhood. Eighteen people were killed, including each teen's brother. As Jess's and Lucas's stories converge, their shared loss brings them together in support and love. Giles offers a nuanced portrait of private grief following a public tragedy.

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.

Smith, Niki The Golden Hour
256 pp. Little, Brown 2021. Trade ISBN 978-0-316-54037-7  Paper ISBN 978-0-316-54033-9  Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-54031-5
 This tenderhearted graphic novel explores the traumatic aftermath of gun violence experienced by a teen, Manuel, who had witnessed his teacher being threatened at gunpoint. On his road to recovery, he slips into panic attacks brought on by dreams, video games, and random images from the scene of the crime. While hanging out at a farm with his friends Caysha and Sebastian to work on a group project for art class, Manuel copes by using photography as a form of therapy; snapshots from his camera phone deliver parts of the visual narrative. Intermittent flashbacks reveal disturbing details from the incident, much like fragmented memories that lie buried until they rise to the surface. Scenic rural landscapes infused with shades of deep blue and rosy pink create a ­calming mood and tone. Vivid panels rendered in black, gray, and white magnify Manuel's increasingly intense disassociating episodes as the plot progresses before ­coming to some resolution and healing. This moving story touches on themes of friendship, ­coping, and self-discovery amidst a haunting experience.

Warga, Jasmine The Shape of Thunder
288 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2021. Trade ISBN 978-0-06-295667-5 Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-295669-9 
A dual-perspective novel follows two girls in the aftermath of a school shooting. Almost a year after her older sister was killed in that shooting by a classmate, twelve-year-old Cora still struggles to make sense of life without her. Cora also misses her now estranged best friend Quinn, whose brother, also dead, was the shooter. In alternating chapters, both girls deal with processing their grief and defining their roles at school and at home. Academically focused Cora tries to connect with her Quiz Bowl teammates and her Lebanese heritage, while Quinn latches on to the idea of traveling back in time to prevent the shooting from happening. Quinn persuades Cora to join her in trying to create a wormhole that will allow them to time-travel, but Cora continues keeping her distance until a minor crisis leads them to reconnect and gives both girls the chance to explain to their families what they need in order to make peace with their losses. Warga (Newbery honoree for Other Words for Home, rev. 7/19) skillfully develops unique voices for her narrators, and the novel's alternating-perspective structure works well. Emotions run high throughout the book without weighing down the plot, and the portrayal of middle-school life is utterly authentic. Warga tells a quiet story despite the dramatic events that led up to it, presenting a sad but not overwhelming narrative.


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.

Braun, Eric Never Again: The Parkland Shooting and the Teen Activists Leading a Movement
48 pp. Lerner 2019. Library ISBN 978-1-5415-5270-8 Ebook ISBN 978-1-5415-5271-5
Middle school. Gateway Biographies series. This volume explores how the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, sparked a student movement against gun violence. In succinct and effective prose, Braun strikes a balance between horrifying and inspiring. Profiles of key players in the movement appear throughout, along with well-captioned color photographs and sidebars on relevant topics. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., ind.

Falkowski, Melissa & Garner, Eric We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists
260 pp. Crown 2018. Trade ISBN 978-1-9848-4996-0 Library ISBN 978-1-9848-4997-7 Ebook ISBN 978-1-9848-4998-4
Middle school, high school. A collection of reporting by the journalism students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the 2018 shooting at their school. "Extraordinary Acts" pieces highlight heroic survivors; others cover the day of the attack, the March for Our Lives movement, and life in the media spotlight. Edited by MSD teachers Falkowski and Garner, the teens' writings are insightful and moving. Includes an insert of color photos.

Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement
223 pp. Penguin/Razorbill 2018.Trade ISBN 9781984836090
Middle school, high school. This compelling and inspring collection is comprised of personal essays by various students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who survived the mass shooting in February 2018 and became gun-control activists. Their stories take us from the day of the tragedy to the massive protest known as March for Our Lives and their ongoing campaign for commonsense gun laws.

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.

Lerner, Sarah, Editor  Parkland Speaks: Survivors From Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories
191 pp. Crown 2019. Trade ISBN 978-1-9848-4999-1 Library ISBN 978-1-9848-5000-3 Ebook ISBN 978-1-9848-5001-0
High school. This emotionally devastating scrapbook-like collection contains essays, poems, journal entries, artwork, and photographs from survivors of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Several accounts describe the events as they unfolded, but the bulk consists of writing and art by students (and a few teachers) processing life after loss. Reproductions of the original handwritten contributions are featured throughout. A hard but important read. Reading list, websites.

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.

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