What Emery and Jake could never anticipate is the arrival of Brian Stutts, who enters the classroom unannounced, demanding access to his son. Frustrated and on the edge, Stutts reveals a gun and threatens Mrs Campbell, Jake, Emery and the students when his request is denied.
The day unfolds through the eyes of Emery and Jake, sharing their story of bravery and fear as they try to protect the children. As Jake attempts to contact the world outside the classroom to let them know what is happening, Emery tries to reach out to the distressed and volatile Stutts. What began as an ordinary day will finish as a tragedy as three lives are lost and so many more are changed forever.
I read this book in one sitting, starting in the evening and refusing to go to bed until I had reached the end. The suspense of the story never slowed from the first to last page. There is a sense of tension maintained through Emery and Jake’s narration as they work to overcome their uncertainty, fear and hesitation with each other to protect the students and even to reach out to the obviously troubled Stutts.
The novel raises some very interesting issues for teen readers to consider, particularly the emotional and mental impact of battle on both military personnel and their families. While Stutt’s experiences and responses are at one extreme, the situation and dialogue raise many points to consider for thoughtful readers regarding the challenges faced on the battlefront, the impact of post traumatic stress disorder and the difficulty for some when returning home to everyday life.
There are descriptions of violence, both in the classroom and through Stutt’s explanation of his experiences overseas. I found the emotions behind these experiences far more confronting than the very general physical descriptions.
This is Not a Drill is a gripping story told well that holds the reader’s attention to the final pages. I would recommend this novel for both teen and adult readers.
Title: This is not a Drill
Author: Beck McDowell
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont, $22.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 November 2012
For ages: 13+ years
Type: Young adult fiction