This Is Not a Drill

Beck McDowell, Author, Rebecca McDowell, Author
Beck McDowell. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-399-25794-0
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-1-101-59064-5
Open Ebook - 266 pages - 978-1-74273-960-1
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When high school seniors Emery and Jake sign up to help teach French to a class of first-graders, they have no idea that an ordinary November morning will turn into a hostage situation. Opening at the hospital in the aftermath (“We started class this morning with our lesson on French words for animals,” Emery tells readers. “And by the afternoon, three people were dead”), McDowell’s debut alternates between Emery and Jake’s present-tense narration of the events in the besieged classroom and their memories of their bitter romantic past. The gunman’s instability makes for tense and unpredictable reading, but the long sections that revisit Emery and Jake’s backstories somewhat diminish the escalating tension. And while certain elements of the story are believable, such as the need to set up a bathroom option for the children and the helplessness Jake and Emery feel, others (like Jake’s use of a classroom computer going unnoticed) are harder to buy. Nonetheless, with authentic and distinct narrative voices and a talent for unspooling suspense, McDowell establishes herself as a writer to watch. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jill Corcoran, the Herman Agency. (Oct.)
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