This Is Not a Drill

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4.7 (2)
 
3.3 (1)
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This Is Not a Drill
Author(s)
Age Range
12+
Release Date
October 25, 2012
ISBN
0399257942
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Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD

When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them--a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he's denied access to his son because of a custody battle. The children's fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake's alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Why we have lock down drills in schools!
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Emery and Jake have had their romantic ups and downs, but are able to work together in Mrs. Campbell's first French grade class as helpers. Their skills dealing with small children are severely tested when the fathers of one of the boys shows up and demands to take his son. Not being content to work matters out in the office, he comes back, shoots a security guard, and holds the entire classroom hostage. It slowly comes to light that Brian Stutts fought in Iraq, and suffered so badly from PTSD that his wife left him and doesn't allow him to see his son as often as he would like. The point of view switches from Emery to Jake, and their chapters also include information about their pasts and relationships. The teacher, Mrs. Campbell, passes out from diabetic shock, and the two teens have to keep the agitated first graders quiet and have to try not to set off Stutts.

Good Points
This was a compelling read on a topic of current interest. While the main story was about the gunman and how he came to be so psychologically unhinged, I found the side story about Emery and Jake's' relationship to be just as interesting.
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Excellent Debut!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
Intense, heart-breaking and hopeful, this little book delivers a realistic punch and is unputdownable. The story of two teens being held hostage along with a roomful of frightened first graders takes an honest look at the far reaching effects of war and the damage PTSD can do. It also shows how forgiveness and the willing to sacrifice oneself can provide hope even in the most dire situations.

Told from alternating POV's, McDowell manages to capture all the emotions of a life-threatening situation, fear, panic and anxiety and infuses it with humor that only a child can lend. Emery and Jake are both familiar with loss but nothing in their pasts, either separate or shared, could've prepared them for Brian Stutts. Having returned home a changed and damaged man, his character evokes feelings of pure disgust and gut-wrenching sadness. The thought that our government frowns upon those who need help as a result of doing their job, is deplorable. "We" send them over there and "we" need to take care of them when they return without judgment or bias.

The situation Emery and Jake find themselves in, forces them to deal with their own issues while allowing them to learn a few life lessons. Both are strong characters despite being flawed and both are eager to do whatever necessary to protect the kids, even if it means risking their own lives. They're no doubt forever changed by this experience and discovering what matters most could be the biggest lesson of all.
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User reviews

1 reviews

Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0  (1)
Characters 
 
3.0  (1)
Writing Style 
 
4.0  (1)
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Disappointment
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
So, I read this book at the very end of 2012, which wasn't really the best timing to pick up this book, but I wanted something short I could read so my goodreads count for 2012 would be a nice round number and this was the first book I grabbed. And it was a pretty decent read.

I had some issues with the way the story was told. This is obviously a really serious subject and an awful situation, but it...didn't really feel like it. We'd get random flashbacks to how the two characters were before so we can understand their relationship which, okay, understandable for the story. But it drew away from the danger and the concerns of the story. As this is kind of a major topic - especially when I was reading it - that was disappointing.

I think because that annoyed me, I couldn't connect with the characters. They were acting appropriately in the present day and being good people and the flashbacks definitely added some level of depth to them, but I just never really clicked with them, I guess.

As for the story itself, once I got past the flashbacks throwing me off, it was really interesting. The writing kept me turning pages without a problem as I sped read to get that nice round number for the year. It was intriguing and well written and I was really interested in seeing how this turned out for the kids, Emery, and Jake. It could've used more tension and more serious moments, but I care enough about the end of the book to keep reading.

Basically, this isn't the kind of book I'd shout from the rooftops about. It's the kind of book you read because you need a quick read or just when you want to see how an interesting idea ends. I'd also recommend grabbing it from a library. My disappointment in this book does leave me wondering about how other books in a similar vein to this are in YA and if you have any recommendations, I'd be happy to hear them.
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