Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.com
I've had a copy of Mark Frye's SCHOOL SHOOTER for quite awhile. Actually, I've had it so long he's probably wondering by now what exactly I did with it. The problem, for me, was that this story was one I could only take in small doses. Being a mother of school-age children, I couldn't help but be affected by the story of teenager James Toomey -- and that same cause and effect scenario wasn't always a pleasant experience.
In the very first chapter of SCHOOL SHOOTER, there's a quote from the song "Save Me" by Unwritten Law: "You can't save me, You can't change me. Well, I'm waiting for my wake-up call, and everything, everything's my fault." This is a great introduction to the life of sixteen-year-old James, who, as the story opens, is undergoing psychiatric evaluation in South Carolina, waiting to be charged with multiple counts of murder for his involvement in the school shooting at Palmetto Beach High School.
You might wonder how a sophomore student who takes college-prep classes, a youngest child from a middle-class family, could possibly end up being responsible for killing eleven people and wounding nine. You might wonder what type of monster, what type of evil child, could basically hold a school hostage while he terrorized the students and teachers. You might, possibly, even wonder why the story of James Toomey scares the crap out of you.
The thing about SCHOOL SHOOTER that hits the hardest is that it pulls no punches. James tells the story of his life -- the good, the not-so-good, and the downright bad -- in a fresh, hard-to-look-away from manner. We learn the story of his years of being tormented by school bullies, of watching as his true love, Isabella, has her heart crushed by a stupid jock, and how his friendship with Jeremy Roberts, another tortured soul, led to unspeakable violence.
SCHOOL SHOOTER is a great story, one that every high school student should read. Although most teenagers survive high school in one piece, psyches intact, not all of them do. And not all of them are victims of school shootings, either. But as with the cause and effect I mentioned earlier, what we say, what we do, how we act towards others -- it all has consequences. Just as James has to deal with the repercussions of the decisions he made, so too do the people who put him in that position in the first place.