Thursday

Columbine by Dave Cullen

We all remember, or know of, what happened on April 20, 1999 at a high school in Littleton, Colorado named Columbine. Two teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened gunfire on their classmates and teachers - killing 13 and injuring dozens of others.

Dave Cullen is a journalist who covered the massacre for over two years. In this book he sheds light on all the commonly held myths about what really occurred that day, and fits it all together for us in a timeline that unfolds along with our understanding of what really happened and who the killers really were.

So let me give you a rough estimate of what I remember Columbine was about (I was 20 at the time and I remember being so distraught over what was unfolding live on television - a boy dangling from a window; the students running out of the school single file with the help of the SWAT team, the tears, the memorial services). But more than anything else, I remember: two teen boys who were bullied by the cool kids (the jocks, cheerleaders, etc.), they couldn't take it anymore so they grabbed some guns (obviously because they are so easy to come by for underage kids) and decided on taking revenge on the whole lot of them. They were part of some gothic/emo club called "The Trench Coat Mafia", listened mostly to Marilyn Manson music and watched the movie The Basketball Diaries over and over for inspiration. They were loners with little to no friends and their parents weren't in the picture. At one point they actually asked one of their victims if she believed in God and upon answering "yes" she was killed.

Now here's the shocker, NONE OF THIS IS TRUE!

I think that's why I was so interested in reading this book. It's like knowing the ending of a story but needing to re-read the beginning because what you thought was right was wrong. Mr. Cullen gives you extensive "insider" information on not just the killers and their victims, but the parents of both, the teachers, the lack of organization with the school and the foul-ups from the law enforcement, the easy access to firearms, the willingness of authorities/adults to overlook signs that might have avoided the whole thing. He even gives you detailed information on the extensive journals, videos, and online postings that were left behind by both Eric and Dylan.

I will confess that this is not a happy book - obviously you know how it all ends. And I will confess to feeling sad, outraged, scared and even depressed while reading it. I couldn't sleep all that well and just kept thinking about it over and over. Who were the Harris's & Klebold's of MY school... and was I on a list somewhere? Or could I have been Harriet? (Harriet = a girl that Dylan obsessively mentions in his diaries; a dream girlfriend).

I had to Google the whole thing since there were no pictures throughout the book (which annoyed me at first - I would have settled for a map of the school). In the end I think the lack of pictures gave it a more serious tone.

It is still a touchy subject, but we all know the Columbine massacre is something that will always remain in our heads -- you might as know the real story. I know that this book might not be for everyone, but for someone who is interested in getting the facts about America's most notorious school shooting, this is definitely the book you'll want to read. It is well-written, gripping and in the end, enlightening.

15 comments:

La Coccinelle said...

This does sound interesting. Heavy... but interesting.

Kris said...

I would actually be interested in reading this one. I defeniteley remember it well.

Emma Michaels said...

Thanks for posting this. Normally I would not read this type of book but maybe for this one...

Tina said...

Thanks for reviewing....everything you said in the beginning is what I know of Columbine...I was 19 when it happened.
I will check this out for sure, Im also reading a book about a guy who shoots kids at his school the whole book is told through the mothers POV...(We need to talk about Kevin)

...MY NAME IS ELENI AND I AM A BOOKAHOLIC... said...

This sounds really interesting, I'd like to read this book even though it'll probably make me paranoid in the end..

Lisa said...

Actually, some of what we first heard about what happened at Columbine is true. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were bullied, continually, for the four years that they attended Columbine High School. The author of "Columbine", Dave Cullen, thinks that just because they didn't cry about it in their journals or because they themselves turned around and bullied students weaker than themselves (a common reaction to being bullied) that they weren't bullied at all. It's just one of the many things that Cullen gets wrong in his book.

It troubles me that so many people, not knowing much about what happened regarding the attack at Columbine, will only read Cullen's book and stop there, thinking that they've gotten the definitive work on the subject. They couldn't be more wrong. Cullen's book has some good in it, to be sure, but it also has an equal or greater amount of errors and faulty research. If you haven't already you should check out Randy Brown's review of "Columbine" at Amazon. Brown's son Brooks was a classmate and friend of Harris and Klebold and Brown himself has spent as much or possibly even more time than Cullen researching the Columbine attack. So upset with the book "Columbine" is Mr. Brown that he all but calls it a 'work of fiction'. Here's the link to his 1-star review at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3AJEK6T7746K6/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

And if you can stand to read at least one more book on the subject then I would urge you and anyone else who has read Cullen's book to please read "Comprehending Columbine" by Ralph Larkin. Larkin does a far superior job of researching and analyzing why the attack occurred. He also does a fantastic job of interviewing many former and current students of Columbine High School and getting from them what it was really like to attend that school (many of them describe the atmosphere as 'toxic').

Emidy said...

This isn't the type of book that would initially catch my eye, but it would be an interesting read, I'm sure. Hopefully I'll get around to reading it sometime!

Emidy
www.uneparole.blogspot.com

Veens said...

Yes, I remember it was in the news here too. It was horrific! I never actually knew the details though.
Now, I knw the myths!
Great review!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Wow. Interesting pick. Kudos!

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Great review, Nely. Also, my dad recently read this one and had a similar complaint about a lack of even a school map to refer to throughout the reading.

Nina said...

Sounds interesting, but I don't think it's my cup of tea!

Booksnyc said...

I have heard a lot about this book - it was on many "best of" lists for 2009 but I am not sure I can handle the subject matter - its tragic on so many levels - the vicitims, the shooters, the parents of the shooters - everyone has lost so much.

Thanks for the review!

christa @ mental foodie said...

I read this last year, as well as Brooks Brown's No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine (I believe Brooks is Randy's Brown's son - Randy Brown was mentioned by Lisa in the comments above) - I read Columbine fist, then Brooks' book to get a different perspective. I don't think any one perspective can be the "right one" - did bullying happen? Probably. But bullying alone doesn't drive people to kill, otherwise everyone who has been bullied would have done the same... everyone deals with it differently.

I'd just finished a YA Novel: The Hate List by Jennifer Brown. As I read it, I couldn't help but think of Columbine. (review here: http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/01/book-review-hate-list-novel-by-jennifer.html)

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

This was one of the best non-fiction books I read last year. Well, not read...I listened to the audio unabridged version and it was just outstanding in every way. Well worth the read, although I know a lot of people are put off by the seriousness of the topic. So glad you reviewed it!

Anonymous said...

Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like
you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you
could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of
that, this is excellent blog. An excellent read. I'll definitely be back.

my blog - tanie chwilówki bez zaświadczeń

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