Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2. Columbine

I'm going to start this post with a confession: things have considerably slowed down on the reading front. I was off the last two days, but for some reason I just haven't been up to reading. Things are busy, life is a little overwhelming, and I need to start using reading as an escape, rather than viewing it as a chore. That will be a big ingredient in my recipe for success.

Luckily, I'm not yet behind on the posting front! This blog is right on schedule, and that's important to me. As long as my posting doesn't slow down, I'm doing just fine...

On that note, the second book of Project 84 2016 is...

By Dave Cullen

I was 12-years-old on April 20th, 1999...8 days away from becoming a teenager. I remember vividly the day I learned about the Columbine High School shooting.

I mention that not to be morbid, but to give you an idea of why I found this book so enticing. See, I remember that time. I remember the Trench Coat Mafia, and the anti-bullying rhetoric. I remember the influx of discussions about how to spot trouble amongst your friends. I read She Said Yes, and listened as people villainized Marilyn Manson.

So, when I heard about this book a few years ago (it came out in 2009, but I was apparently out of the loop), I immediately added it to my 'to read' list. I'm a true crime fan to begin with, and to have a case that I remember so vividly be put into a 350 page book was a gift. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to find out where my memories differed from reality.

The answer? Almost everywhere.

Now, it's not my memory's fault. What this book lays out is a systematic issue that created misinformation and misleading facts. From a bumbling Sheriff unprepared to deal with the limelight to a 24-hour news cycle wanting to create a narrative, the way the story plays out in my mind only tangentially relates to what actually happened.

This is how I remember Columbine: two teenage boys, members of a group in their school known as the "Trench Coat Mafia", were bullied terribly and finally snapped. They stole guns from their parents, created pipe bombs from online tutorials, and went into their school to get back at the jocks and popular kids who bullied them. They shot 24 victims (13 died), before finally shooting themselves.

This book reveals a much more complicated story.

I won't give too much away, I really feel like everyone should pick up this book, but the truth is much more sinister, much more global. It deals with sociopathy, parenting, and the red tape of the law. It deals with the half truths in the media, some of which have never been rectified. And it deals with a community desperately trying to heal from the worst day of their life.

The book is written from a journalistic point of view. Dave Cullen covered the Columbine massacre from day 1, and he relies on firsthand accounts, interviews, and police documents to tell his story. He does not allow for conjecture, nor does he soften the details into a "good story". He only writes what he knows, and he sources everything heavily at the end of the book.

What results is a narrative that is believable, but not flowery. A narrative that explains things like motive and what led to the killings without displaying sympathy for the perpetrators. And it's...just excellent. There's nothing else to it.

It goes without saying, but I would recommend anyone picks up this book. Parts of it can be graphic - particularly the descriptions of the shootings and the injuries - but the wonderful writing, combined with thorough and detailed research, creates a fascinating and eye opening narrative. Read it. It's really that simple.


Now, with that out of the way, I'm off to read! I'm still hopeful that you'll see another post in a few days...provided that I can bury myself into my reading for a few nights.

I hope you all are having a good week as well! Happy reading!

Next Review: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (Expected Posting Date: Saturday, January 16th)

***All quotes and annotations refer to this version of Columbine, published by Twelve in 2009***

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