Sunday, January 31, 2016

[Review] Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine by Dave Cullen
Publisher: Twelve
Publishing Date: April 6, 2009
417 Pages
Format: hardcover, library
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Goodreads rating: 4 stars


On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma-City style, and to leave "a lasting impression on the world." Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence-irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting "another Columbine."

Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris, and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal. 

The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who came to stockpile a basement cache of weapons, to record their raging hatred, and to manipulate every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boy's tapes and diaries, Cullen gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy.

In the tradition of Helter Skelter and In Cold Blood, Columbine is destined to become a classic. A close-up portrait of hatred, a community rendered helpless, and the police blunders and cover-ups, it is a compelling and utterly human portrait of two killers--an unforgettable cautionary tale for our times.

My Review

I'm not sure how I stumbled upon this book recently, but once I read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read it soon. I was only about 10 years old when the shooting at Columbine happened, so I honestly didn't know much about it. I learned a little about it in school and when I watched Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moore. But I really didn't know much of what the media portrayed it to be. All I knew going into this book was that jocks, bullies, and video games were blamed for why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed this tragedy. 

I really loved the way this book was written. It starts out pretty early (within the first few chapters) with the school shooting. After that, it jumps back to Eric and Dylan's pasts; how they grew up and the events that led up to this. Meanwhile, goes back and forth between Eric and Dylan and the students and staff members that they killed and injured. I love that we were able to get to know the victims in this event and it didn't just focus on Eric and Dylan. And not only did we learn about the kids and teacher that died, but we also learned about the students who were injured and those who witnessed the event. 

I really learned a lot from reading this book. Clearly the information that the media received wasn't all that accurate. There doesn't appear to be any relation to jocks, bullies, or video games as to why Eric and Dylan committed this crime. Instead, they were two very troubled boys. Eric is thought to be a psychopath who went undiagnosed during his life; he simply enjoyed the thought of tormenting and killing people. It was a sad book to read, but very informative and I'm glad I read it. It also made me think a lot about how the media portrays things (not always their fault, just depends on the info they're given). 

I felt, and feel, incredibly bad for Dylan and Eric's parents. They are made out to be bad guys throughout this whole ordeal. I think we forget sometimes that while their sons committed awful crimes, these parents still lost a child. Looking back, maybe there were signs that the parents could have noticed. But I don't think any one of us would think our children would turn out to be killers. I just don't think we can blame the parents for something that their children did; the parents didn't commit these crimes. 

Overall, I thought this was a very good book and very educational. It really opened my eyes to a lot of the reasons why this tragedy may have occurred. I think if you're interested in learning more about this incident, and a little about psychology, you should pick this up. Very insightful. 

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