Review: This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published: Oct 25th, 2012 by Nancy Paulson Books
Source: Publisher

Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD

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.

This is another one of those books I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t just shown up on my doorstep.  I thought it sounded good but it’s not a subject that had me all excited or anything.  And I’m so glad it showed up and that I read it because this was a fabulous read.

This book takes place over the time period of one day.  Pretty much just one morning actually.  But we get memories from Emery and Jake and know that they were in a relationship and broke up.  We see what they went through in the past and we see they still care about each other now.  We also see some of the stuff they go through daily with their families and how it has affected them.  So while the story is about this crazy guy who holds the classroom hostage, we still get a good idea of the characters personalities and a bit of romance even if it’s mostly in the past.  I thought this worked really well and kept the story more interesting.

Emery and Jake both think that this is something they can’t handle, having to take care of all these kids while held hostage by a guy with a gun.  But they are wrong- they are exactly the right people because they have so much more strength than they think.  And while Emery may have some nerve problems, when it’s important she’s really able to step up.  And Jake may think he’s no hero, but when it comes down to life or death he really does what needs to be done.  They are both hero’s and they handle these small children so well. 

One thing that I think was great and added a lot to the story, as well as kind of giving us info, was that the guy holding them hostage is a soldier suffering from PTSD.  This kind of humanized him for us as Emery talks to him about his experiences, we see the things he went through, the horrors he’s experienced and the pain that’s inside him.  This was once a good guy and he doesn’t want to be who he’s become.  There’s a lot about PTSD and the way things are for them when they get back.  How hard it is to go back to normal after so long over there dealing with death and just struggling to stay alive each day.  I think in this book I saw things differently than I did before.  I wasn’t very knowledgeable about this and I appreciate the author showing us through such a fantastic story. 

This isn’t an easy book to read because it’s intense and scary, but it was a fast book to read.  I read it straight through in under two hours and would have been happy to keep reading.

I definitely suggest you give this one a read!

Disclosure: I received this book for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.


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  1. I hadn’t heard much about this one but then — boom — I started hearing awesome things about it. It hasn’t shown up on my doorstep (sadness) but it still seems worth the trip to the library to read it. Scarily this-could-happen books freak me out, though it’s usually in a good way.

  2. I have seen this one pop up a few times over the last week and everyone has been saying pretty much the same thing, that it is a great read.

    Nice review Candace, I will have to add this one to my read shelf on Goodreads.

  3. This isn’t something I would have rushed to pick up I don’t think Candace, but your review has me thinking I’d really enjoy it. I love when I start a book not sure it’s going to be the book for me only to fall in love with it:) I can’t even imagine the things soliders see in war, and I really like that he’s humanized despite the wrong he’s doing and the pain he’s causing.

  4. Well I agree this probably isn’t one I would pick up but I keep reading good things about it and I am always interested in psychology so the PTSD would interest me!

  5. this one randomly showed up for me too, but I keep hearing some good things so I guess I should check it out. It does sound like something i’d enjoy, because I like reading books that deal with school shootings and the like, and tihs is a version of that, in a way, so I’m curious. I find it all quite fascinating…what leads a person to that.


  6. Wow, this sounds pretty intense, but also really interesting. It’s also not one that I would necessarily go out of my way to pick up… yet it does sound like it might be worth picking up from the library.

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