Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Book Review: This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

This is Not a Drill

Author: Beck McDowell

Purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Synopsis: Emery: Teaching French to eighteen first-graders? Very cool. Getting partnered with Jake? Now that was just cruel. After what he did, I didn’t even want to speak to him.

Jake: Yeah, I messed things up with Emery, I admit it. But I actually thought this tutoring gig might give me a chance to show her I wasn’t a total jerk.

Emery: And then it happened. So fast. A solider charged into the room and demanded his son. We couldn’t have known that he’d pull a gun when he was told no. Now we were trapped with him—just me and Jake, with all those kids looking to us to protect them.

Jake: What I saw in the guy’s eyes scared me, but what could I do? One wrong move could send him over the edge. I had to save Emery and the kids. The last thing I wanted was to let her down again. I had to find a way to stop him . . .

Brought to you by TeamNerd Reviewer Annabell Cadiz

Review: In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, a book like This is Not a Drill is not only immensely palpable, but emotionally heartbreaking.

Emery and Jake are two seventeen-year-olds, who not only use to date and had a nasty falling out, but have also been partnered up to teach a class of eighteen first-graders as part of their grade for their French class. On a usual morning of reading to the kids, a man suddenly storms into the classroom, demanding his son, Patrick. Brian Strutts is an ex-soldier suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has fallen on hard times. His wife has chosen to divorce him, but he’ll be damned if she takes away his son. Since the front office won’t let him leave with Patrick, Brain sees no other option than to take the entire class hostage.

This book hits at every parent’s worst nightmare and reminds the world of the horrors many parents have already had to endure in the history of our country. This is Not a Drill is targeted toward Young Adults, but parents will benefit from reading it as well.

The best part to this book are the children—the eighteen first-graders. They are so beautifully innocent and amazingly resilient and brave for being so young. They’re scared but determined to believe everything is going to be okay, especially because they truly and fully trust their first grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell, as well as Emery and Jake. Kids are so trusting and filled with so much hope and reading through how they react throughout the book just brought tears to my eyes. There is this one memorable scene where a little boy named Simon confesses it’s his birthday and that his mother gave him cupcakes to pass to the class. I just wanted to scoop him up and hug him! He even shares the cupcake with the man holding them hostage. I lost it after that. Just a reminder to how loving and forgiving kids are.

There isn’t much of a plot to the book. It’s mainly focused on the students and Brian Strutts inside the classroom. The kids keep the plot alive and Mrs. Campbell. The moments of Brian’s outbursts or when the security guard and police get involved add tension and minor action to the plot. But the story still manages to keep the reader’s attention and pulls at your heartstrings throughout.

Mrs. Campbell is the type of teacher every parent would want for his or her child. She is kind, sweet, yet firm and patient. She keeps her cool in the face of such crippling fear and keeps the kids feeling safe even with a gunman inside their classroom.

Brian Sturtts story is, sadly, an all too common tale of what soldiers endure when they return home from service: emotional and mental breakdown as they work toward readjusting to civilian life and the lack of adequate care for veterans. The heartache and pain he had to live with and the struggles he faced are very much real.

I did have some issues with the story though. Emery and Jake’s romantic relationship seemed to be unnecessary to the plot. The flashbacks as to what happened to break them up and how they still feel about each other, and Jake trying to convince Emery he’s changed in the middle of a dangerous situation, felt out of place. I did like how they teamed up to work together to protect the kids and the way they interacted and reassured the children.
There’s a scene where Jake searches for info on how to identify a hamster’s sex and hamster sex in general (because of something one of the kids said) and that seemed ridiculously unnecessary. And how he ends up getting online without Strutts noticing wasn’t all too believable. HOW Jake winds up finding a way to reach the outside world I could believe, but Strutts never picking up on it or noticing, I didn’t believe.

The ending was predictable and came off feeling very rushed and convenient. I would have liked a longer book to really grasp the tension and fear in a situation as horrifying as the ones the characters face, and for the ending to be done more smoothly.

I would still recommend to both parents and young adults to pick up a copy of This is Not a Drill. Whether you read it separately or together, this is a book that will touch your heart and leave you grateful for the people in your life. You will want to wrap your children in your arms and demand better care for our soldiers who give so much to ensure our freedom.

About the Author: Beck McDowell is a YA author with emphasis on the Adult in Young Adult. She loves intelligent books with strong plots and quirky characters written in simple, creative language. THIS IS NOT A DRILL is her debut into the Young Adult Fiction Genre. She also wrote the non-fiction book LAST BUS OUT, the story of Courtney Miles, who stole a bus after Hurricane Katrina, and drove over 300 people to safety. Beck lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her lawyer husband, David; her two adult children, Emily and Drew, also live there. She's not a fan of routine so she writes anywhere from two hours a day to fourteen hours, sometimes in pajamas (but occasionally in pearls,) usually in the morning, but now and then all night. Beck loves being allowed to "pay it forward" in honor of favorite writers who hooked her on reading at a young age. She values the process of writing above any product; time spent learning to do something well is never wasted.

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