Every person in the world should read this book. That being said, I'll admit right off that I hate guns. Absolutely abhor them. I'm the mother who refuses to let her children play with toy guns, even water pistols. Why? Why, indeed. Why let your children shoot things at each other--whether it be water, rubber darts, BBs, or paint balls--if you don't want them to shoot bullets at each other? After all, that's what guns are for. To shoot bullets. Bullets that are designed to do one thing, and one thing only--kill. Or, if you prefer, injure, maim, dismember, or wound.
So what is GIVE A BOY A GUN about? In a few words, human nature, the cruelty of children, and how those factors don't really mix well with guns. Oh sure, gun activists say that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." And, if you get technical about it, they're right. But when someone gives you a guitar, what's it for? It produces musical sounds. Yes, it needs an actual human to aide it along, but a guitar does what it's made to do--make music. Just like a gun, with the aide of a human, does what it's supposed to do--kill.
In Todd Strasser's GIVE A BOY A GUN, we learn about Brendan and Gary, two boys who live each day of school in their own personal hell. They're not athletic, so the jocks pick on them. They're not particularly brainy, so they don't fit in with the nerds. They don't come from extremelely wealthy families, so they're not immediately deemed popular. In fact, Brendan and Gary are like 95% of every teenager you meet--normal kids living normal lives, trying their best to just get through the day. I remember all too well the horror and terror of high-school; not physical, at least in my case, but the sheer emotional bullying that I received from kids who deemed me not up to par. And the teachers who turn a blind eye, either because the tormentors were too valuable to the school as athletes, or too much trouble to deal with.
But for Brendan and and Gary, enough turns out to be enough. Really, how much torment can one person take? When teachers and administration and counselors turn the other way, when budget restraints prevent teachers from the ability to really get to know their students, when athleticism takes precedent over brain power, when will school bullying come to an end? Why, really, should it shock us as a nation when things like Columbine happen? Has it really been so long ago that you were in school that you can't remember what it was like to be the object of someone's daily put-downs, or the sneers and snide comments from the "popular" kids?
Gary and Brendan, along with a few others like them, were "outcasts" in their school. When their fascination with revenge on those who've tormented them leads to guns, it really shouldn't surprise anyone. GIVE A BOY A GUN is interspersed with tragic facts--school shootings over the last several decades, quotes from newspaper articles, statistics from gun companies--that prove that teens and guns is a growing problem. But really, when you think about it, why should it shock us? We always see signs that proclaim a school a "drug-free zone", but when will we ever see one that proclaims it a "bully-free zone", or a "tolerance for everyone" zone?
Think about why kids are so cruel, why they can't get noticed by those who could possibly help them, and why they can so easily get a gun to make their problems go away.
Just as every person in the world (adult and teen) should watch the movie Requiem for a Dream, everyone in the world needs to read Todd Strasser's utterly though-provoking GIVE A BOY A GUN. And then we'll talk about how "guns don't kill people."
This book was absolutely amazing. I couldn't put it down. It has a unique way of telling the story - short paragraphs from people around town talking about the two boys and events leading up to the shooting, with relevant quotes about guns and school shootings surfacing at the bottom of the page - that some people may not enjoy; however, I was entranced by this new (to me) method of writing. I feel it dealt well with the serious topic, and it was very informative. However, some might feel it is not appropriate for younger readers. 13 and up, or a mature 11 or 12 year old
"For as long as they can remember, Brendan and Gary have been mercilessly teased and harassed by jocks who rule Middletown High. But not anymore. Stealing a small arsenal of guns from a neighbor they take their classmates hostage at a school dance. In the panic of this desperate stuation, it soon becomes clear that only one thing matters to Brendan and Gary; revenge."