Saturday, June 18, 2022

Book Review: Shooter by Caroline Pignat


From Amazon: "The Breakfast Club meets We Need to Talk About Kevin.

A lockdown catches five grade 12 students by surprise and throws them together in the only unlocked room on that empty third floor wing: the boys' washroom. They sit in silence, judging each other by what they see, by the stories they've heard over the years. Stuck here with them--could anything be worse?
Alice: an introverted writer, trapped in the role of big sister to her older autistic brother, Noah.
Isabelle: the popular, high-achieving, student council president, whose greatest performance is her everyday life.
Hogan: an ex-football player with a troubled past and a hopeless future.
Xander: that socially awkward guy hiding behind the camera, whose candid pictures of school life, especially those of Isabelle, have brought him more trouble than answers.
Told in five unique voices through prose, poetry, text messages, journals and homework assignments, this modern-day 
Breakfast Club takes a twist when Isabelle gets a text that changes everything: NOT A DRILL!! Shooter in the school!
Suddenly, the bathroom doesn't seem so safe anymore. Especially when they learn that one of them knows more about the shooter than they realized..."

My Review: I really wanted to like this book a lot more than I did.  It has the tagline "The Breakfast Club meets We Need to Talk About Kevin." I wrote my Capstone paper for my degree on school shootings.  During my research, I read many books on school shootings, both fiction and nonfiction, including, We Need to Talk About Kevin.  For me, this book missed the mark on both its comparison to The Breakfast Club and We Need to Talk About Kevin which was really disappointing to me. 

Shooter primarily takes place in the boy's bathroom of a high school that is in lockdown. The main characters include Hogan - the jock, Isabelle - the school princess, Alice- brain -Xander - the weird one and Noah who is autistic. I thought the sections told from Noah's point of view were interesting. They were told through his thoughts and through pictures. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like for someone with autism to be in a school lockdown situation where there is an active shooter and loud noises and tension rolling off the other students in waves.   

Now let's look at the caricatures of the jock, the princess, and the weird one.  Hogan played football until there was an incident resulting in his brother's death. Now the other students are afraid of him and spreading rumors about him.  (This is not a spoiler - we learn this basic info early on). Hogan's behavior feels authentic to how someone in his situation behave. He is probably my favorite character in the book.  

Alice is good student and loves writing. She's quiet and none as "the weird guys" sister. I find it really hard to believe that in the world we live in now that other students would refer to Noah as "the weird guy." I'm not saying that people with autism don't get picked on or made fun of - but the fact that none of the other kids know that he is autistic is weird to me.  Anyway, I digress. Alice cares deeply about her brother and has taken all the responsibility for her brother onto her shoulders almost to the point of having a martyr mentality. 

Isabelle is so vapid and unlikable in my opinion. I feel like the authors depiction of her is the least real portrayal in the book. Isabelle supposedly is the queen bee of the school and has all this pressure to be popular both in school and from her parents. She supposedly had this life changing experience that made her see life differently, but that doesn't ring true to me. She's so shallow.  She knows they are in lockdown because of an active shooter, and she spends the time in lockdown complaining about her life and her boyfriend. To me this just doesn't ring true.  These seem like pretty shallow things to be talking about or thinking about when you could be shot and killed.  This character just doesn't ring true to me.  

Xander is the mysterious weird kid.  He likes taking pictures, is obsessed with X-Men and has weird conversational habits. The author never outright says it, but to me Xander feels like he also has a form of autism or possibly Asperger's.   He sees the world differently than his fellow students and he doesn't pick up on social cues or societal norms. He reminds me very much of a friend of mine that has Asperger's. While Hogan is favorite characters, I think Xander is one of the most interesting because of how he sees the world. His Social Autopsies showed us an interesting glimpse of who he is as a character.

The Shooter - whose identity I will not spoil, is the least fleshed out of all the characters.  To compare him to Kevin, from We Need to Talk About Kevin, is a major reach. This character seems more like an afterthought. I feel like we don't really know him or his real motivations. For me, the reason I wrote my Capstone paper on school shootings is because I'm a bit obsessed with knowing the shooter(s). Why did they do it? What lead up to this? What is the motivation? Where did we fail as a society with this person to make them feel that killing classmates and teachers is the answer to life's problems. We don't really have that with the shooter in this book. We get small glimpses but not a lot of why.  There is so much depth in We Need to Talk About Kevin. We really get deep into his psyche and it's a twisted and dark place.  There really is no comparison between these two characters or even these two books.

I gave this book 3 stars because I did enjoy reading it and it was a fast read, but it lacked the depth and the emotion that I was looking for. In the end, lives are changed - which you would expect from an active shooter situation.  I just don't find this book very believable.  

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