This book was a haunting read. Any book about school shootings strikes fear into my heart, being that I work with kids and have children of my own, but this one was particularly eerie. I know I’ve read books before that gave harrowing depictions of the different perspectives of characters experiencing a school shooting — like This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. But, what makes this book stand out from the crowd is that it provides the perspectives of many different characters’ interactions with Kirby Matheson [the shooter] in the days, months, and even years leading up to the shooting. The author explores a variety of relationships people had with Kirby, effectively highlighting the many clues that were missed or ignored.
When compiled in a story such as this, it becomes rather obvious that the young man was struggling with anger and depression and that someone should have stepped in; that an intervention may have been able to prevent this tragedy. But, as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. I can only hope that readers will take this book to heart and apply the information garnered to recognize if and when the people around them are struggling with anger and depression. If we can increase the chances that people will recognize someone in need of help, we can increase our chances that we can get people the help they need before they resort to violence. For more resources, check out the CDC’s page on Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention.
I’m so glad my library request for this book was fulfilled in time for me to post a review during Transgender Awareness Week! Though there are many YA novels that focus on the GLBTQ experience, some of which include transgender characters — like Almost Perfect and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children — I cannot think of a single book for middle grade readers (aside from George) that even mentions transgender people, let alone talks honestly about what it means to be a transgender child. I appreciated the way that Gino brought readers into George’s mind in order to demonstrate how the often-rigid gender roles and expectations in our society might affect trans children/people.
Though the existence of GLBTQ people is nothing new, our society still has a long way to go before many people in the GLBTQ community will feel accepted, let alone embraced. In addition to activists working toward recognizing and providing equal rights and protections for people of all sexual orientations and gender identifications, it is also extremely important for children to have access to stories like this. Not only so children can build an empathy for people who have different sexual orientations and/or gender identifications than themselves, but also so that ALL children can see themselves reflected in the literature they read. #WeNeedDiverseBooks is about SO much more than ethnicity.
If and when my library teens want to discuss what is going on in their lives, they know am available as a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, or as a resource for finding agencies that can provide further help. I sometimes joke that I should have had a minor in social work because of all the problems that have been brought to me, but I am mostly just honored that I am a trusted adult to whom the teens will come when they are dealing with serious issues. Some of my teens have come to me while they were in the process of coming out and/or transitioning, and though I am a very curious person by nature, I have done my best to be supportive without prying. Out of respect for the difficulties faced by coming out and/or transitioning, I think it is only fair to let the person who is coming out/transitioning take the lead in the conversation. Thankfully, there are brave young people like Arin Andrews who are willing to share their own stories so that transgender and cisgender people can better understand both the obstacles transgender people face and the resources that are available to them as they decide how they would like to move forward with their lives.
I thought Arin did a great job of explaining the process of [female to male] transitioning both simply and thoroughly; the fact that he managed to do so without being didactic was very impressive! Though Arin’s transition involved both hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, he was careful to explain that there are many people who opt to transition differently and that all choices are valid. I was especially grateful for Arin’s candor about dating and sex, since I am sure many people are curious about how that all “works,” when one or more of the people in the relationship is transgendered, but don’t know how to ask without prying/being rude. I think this book would be an excellent resource for someone who is preparing for or struggling with his/her own transition, but I also think it is an important book to share with cisgender teens. As a woman who feels perfectly at home in the body into which she was born, it has taken years of conversations with transgendered teens to even begin to fully appreciate their struggle. I can only hope that the open sharing of stories like Arin’s will help future generations to be more understanding and empathetic and that the struggle for trans rights will soon become a part of history.
I still cannot get over this cover! Even though I have way too much going on and don’t really have much time for reading lately, I saw the cover of this ARC and *knew* that I had to find the time to read it if my request got approved. (Thanks for the approval on NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire!) Much like I am drawn to stories about serial killers, I am captivated by the stories of school shooters. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t worship mass murders or anything. I’m just so curious about how they could think like they do. I mean, I’ve gotten depressed and angry plenty of times in my life — but I just can’t conceive of ever getting to the point where taking the lives of other people would become an option, let alone seem like the right idea.
Imagine being dismissed from a normal/boring school assembly only to find that the doors to the auditorium were locked and someone who was hiding up on the stage has come out shooting. This story is told from the varying perspectives of several students affected by the shooting, both inside and outside the auditorium, for the duration of the terrifying 54 minute ordeal. I especially appreciated the perspective of the shooter’s sister. Though it took me three sittings to finish [because I was just too busy/tired and couldn’t find the time to read it straight through], this book begs to be read in a single sitting. People who enjoyed Nineteen Minutes and/or Give a Boy a Gun should check this one out. (Release date = 1/5/16.)
I was going to review another book I recently read, but I am just too excited about today’s historic Supreme Court ruling! Instead of posting a random review of a book, I think I’m going to simply highlight the GLBTQ books I have reviewed in the past. Enjoy!
Despite the fact that the American Psychiatric Association put forth a resolution in 2009 stating that “there is insufficient evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work,” there are still numerous facilities and therapists that claim they can “cure” homosexuality. It breaks my heart and makes me angry, in equal measure, when I hear about teens being sent off to so-called conversion therapy camps. To put it plainly, I find the notion that GLBTQ people can/need to be “fixed” is simply horrifying. I recognize that some people’s religious views are the reason they don’t condone homosexuality, but I reject the implication that one’s religious beliefs can or should be forced upon anyone else. Though some some places [California, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington D.C.] have passed laws banning conversion therapy for minors, I am appalled that so many states haven’t stepped up. Hopefully, books like The Summer I Wasn’t Me and The Miseducation of Cameron Post can help to open people’s eyes and to bring about further change. Continue reading