Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book review: Columbine by Dave Cullen

This wasn't a book I ran out to read. In fact I was, like a lot of people I'm guessing, simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by the topic: The mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. But I ran across it at a used bookstore (this is the perfect argument for used bookstores, as this was a book I'd try for less, but not pay full price for, since I was so iffy.) And I am so glad I did.

You might think the book would be maudlin or else clinical and dry (particular when you saw how long and well-researched it was.) But it was neither. It was riveting, comprehensive and most importantly, even-handed. I came away from the book not thinking either of the boys was a monster (although Eric Harris sure seems like a psychopath, and I mean that in the clinical, not colloquial meaning). I really feel for both their parents, especially the Klebolds. As Mr. Cullen's primary goal is to understand why this happened, if it could have been prevented, and if there were any outside causes, Klebold and Harris are his primary subjects. I wish he'd given us a little more about the victims though. Some of them were well-drawn but others were just a name.

Despite the size of this book, I just couldn't put it down. I read it nearly nonstop for three days. It is terrifying, but only in how easily this could happen anywhere. I was glad Mr. Cullen busted a couple of myths, the obvious one of the "trench-coat mafia" and the persistent one of Cassie, the "She said yes" girl who supposedly was killed after one of the boys asked her if she believed in God and she answered yes (that happened to a different girl who survived, not to Cassie.) Nothing can turn back the clock ont hat day, but by understanding how it happened, we have a chance to prevent it in the future. School shootings are just multiplying, not going away, and in order to fight something we must first understand it.

I bought this book at my local used bookstore.

1 comment:

Katherine P said...

This is actually required reading for 11th Grade English here. My daughter read it last year and was quite affected by it. Her take on Harris was pretty much the same as yours. Thank you for the review. I've been interested to see what an adult thought of it but to chicken to read it myself.