This Is Not a DrillFeatured
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.
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.
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.