Published by Simon Pulse on 01 September 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Anthology, Contemporary (No Romance Focus), Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
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Also by this author: Shades of Earth, Some Girls Are, All the Rage, Please Remain Calm, Bruiser, The Deathday Letter, Better, Where the Stars Still Shine
Place(s) Traveled To: Middleborough, Florida
First Line(s): Susanna Byrd turned nine that Thursday morning at 7:17 a.m.
When people think of school shootings they tend to think of Columbine (1999) yes they’ll reference the current school shooting but there is always a reference to this event. Its sad and scary to think of school shootings as a common place thing and there are times when it seems like before Columbine life was idyllic and that things like this just didn’t happen. I graduated in 1995, I was a pre-Columbine teenager but I wasn’t without knowledge and fear of what a school shooting could be. In 1988, in the town next door to the one that I grew up in there was a school shooting as a result of one student bullying another. In 1994 my town and that town merged to form one school system and my high school became the high school where this event occurred. I was 11 in 1988 and so I don’t recall much surrounding the events of the shooting when it happened but when the towns merged there was a lot of talk about it. And also lots of talk surrounding the courtyard where the shooting took place and if it should be reopened to students or not. Had enough time passed? Would it happen again? What will happen when you bring together two rival towns and try to make them one school.
There was fear then, in those pre-Columbine days. There was talk and meetings and rumors and gossip and even though the kids in my town weren’t part of that event it became ours as we heard about it and that school became our school. So when I read a book like VIOLENT ENDS that involves a school shooting I’m transported back to 1994, to high school, and to all the talk and remembering and fear of the shooting that happened there 7 years before. Tragically school shootings aren’t a new thing and until something major happens and we learn why or come up with a better way to deal with guns in America they will keep happening. With each occurrence the fear will get worse and more ingrained and books like VIOLENT ENDS will become even more important. VIOLENT ENDS is a unique story and is told by 17 different authors who are all telling the same story but different pieces of it. Different glimpse into the killer, Kirby Matheson and why he may have done what he did on that fateful day when he brought a gun to school.
I’ve read school shooting books before, HATE LIST (my review) and NINETEEN MINUTES, and while they hit home they didn’t effect me as much as VIOLENT ENDS did with just its first few chapters. I think this is in part to how the story is written because it just reminds of when I was in high school and the events of that 1988 event kept getting brought up by different people in different ways. During my read of VIOLENT ENDS I found that I needed to take a lot of breaks. This wasn’t an easy read and I had to pause and think about what I’d just read, process the chain of events that I was reading about, and just be in the present before being able to dive back into this world that Hutchinson had created. Throughout it all you only get these little pieces of the puzzle. You read about the day of the shooting from different moments in time but the one thing missing from VIOLENT ENDS is the complete picture.
The one viewpoint that we never see in VIOLENT ENDS is Kirby’s. You never learn why he did what he did or why who chose the victims he did. The picture you get of Kirby isn’t the crazy loner type that you often see when you hear about a school shooting. Kirby was liked by his peers and his home life was pretty ordinary. So why did he snap? In the end, we’re left with almost as many questions as we start with but VIOLENT ENDS isn’t a book that feels incomplete. Yes, there are pieces to the puzzle missing but its a raw and powerful story and its the sort of book that with each re-read you will learn something new in its pages.
VIOLENT ENDS defied all of my expectations and its hard to find the words to tell you just how amazing this story was. Its an emotional read and it hit me harder than I expected it too. This is a book where there are no easy answers and as a reader it will often make you feel helpless because you can’t stop the chain of events from happening. With each new chapter, each new POV, you become a part of this story. And despite the many authors that take part in this book it feels like one cohesive story. Often with an anthology things can be choppy and you don’t like all of the stories. But that isn’t the case here as VIOLENT ENDS isn’t an anthology as we think of anthologies. It really is one story and all these authors worked some impressive magic to take their very different styles and meld them together to seem like one. I think that VIOLENT ENDS is a must read and I can’t recommend it enough. The reading experience is as unique and different as the way it was written. This book will make you feel things and each person who reads this book will take away something different from
Oh and for those who might be wondering. The shooting that happened in my school involved a 15 year old gunman who was bullied by the kid that he shot in the head. It happened in the school’s courtyard and it was then closed off until 1994. The shooter only shot the one person and he was then sentenced to 3 years in juvie and released at 18 to move away to places unknown. The kid he shot survived albeit with some brain damage and he now talks to students about the dangers of bullying and is also a teacher.