Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell

Book Description:

Paperback, 216 pages
November 1st 2012, Hardie Grant Egmont

A father who misses his son.
A soldier home from war.
A man with nothing to lose.

When Brian Stutts walks into a first-grade classroom with a gun, Emery and Jake’s world is blown apart. They’re just teenagers helping to tutor some kids, but now they’re at the centre of a deadly hostage crisis.

While Jake tries to get a secret message to the outside world, Emery reaches out to the desperate, unstable man. But Brian Stutts is holding the gun, and one way or another he’s not leaving without his son.

Source: Jennifer + Hardie Grant Egmont

My Thoughts:

In a sentence, This is Not a Drill is the kind of book you should be reading if you want a quick read. What I expected was a story that would keep me on the edge of my seat and that was what I got. I was not disappointed with This is Not a Drill. The author did an amazing job in keeping the level of suspense high and creating an unpredictable atmosphere. Although the beginning started out a bit slow for me, eventually the pace quickened and it left me reading through the entire book in a few hours.

In the beginning, I delved into the lives of Emery and Jake, two ex-lovers who were assigned as tutor partners and had to endure the awkwardness of it all. I liked both of them. They were flawed and realistic in my eyes. Emery was suffering from the POTS syndrome while Jake was dealing with the loss of his mother and the new woman who was trying to fill in her shoes, The Christine. The tension between them was so apparent sometimes while in other times, the tension faded away to make way for what they really felt. I'm a sucker for romance and although that wasn't expressed much in this book, since that wasn't the main point of the story, I still appreciated it.

One of the things I liked most in this novel were the flashbacks. Just like the flashbacks in Article 5 and Breaking Point by Kristen Simmons, the flashbacks revealed so much about Emery and Jake's lives and relationship. I could feel waves of emotion coming off of these flashbacks and later on, see the traces of these emotions in the present, during Emery and Jake's conversations and thoughts. The alternating perspectives also gave me a chance to get into both of their heads and see the complete story from the two points of view.

Brian Stutts, the soldier and hostage-taker, was both scary and vulnerable. Of course, just like in any other hostage-taking tale, we are against the hostage-taker. We perceive them as the sole menace in the tale. However, in this particular story, Stutts was not just a menace but he was also a victim of circumstances and violence. As a soldier in Iraq, he experienced things that were life-changing, albeit not in a good way. His narrative within the story was an interesting take on the lives of soldiers before and after their service, as well as on life and people in general. This soft, tortured side of Stutts made me ache. His story was miserable, painful, frustrating and 100% realistic.

Another thing that I liked about this novel: the children. The innocence and love radiating out of these children was refreshing. This balanced out the heaviness of Stutts' actions and story.

This is Not a Drill is a kaleidoscope of emotions and perspectives. Riveting and heart-pounding, this eye-opener will keep readers at the edge of their seats, as well as tickle their minds and urge them to rethink about life and the blurred line between good and bad. I recommend this to readers who like realistic contemporary (the heavy kind) and thrillers.


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