Give a Boy a Gun
Todd Strasser, Give a Boy a Gun, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2000.
Reviewed by Drew Meyers
Strasser tells the story of two social outcasts who hold their peers hostage at gunpoint during a high school dance. Armed with semiautomatic weapons, Gary and Brendan seek revenge on the football players and popular students who have tormented and humiliated them. Although fictional, Strasser's book tells the broader story of youth gun violence, drawing on news headlines and stories from past gun-related episodes in schools across the United States. As the story illustrates, social ostracism and intolerance of differences can lead misguided students to the point of believing that guns provide the only solution to their problems.
Strasser explores common social problems facing adolescents, including the difficulties of moving to a new school, the sense of inferiority if one does not play sports, and a lack of understanding and empathy often found among students - all of which can create a sense of fear and alienation. Strasser also looks at the contributing role that a media obsessed with violence may play, as well as the importance of active, involved parents in helping children find constructive solutions to problems.
The book suggests that violence is widespread and often ignored in schools: "Violence comes in many forms - guns, fists, and words of hate and contempt." Strasser shows how, in extreme cases, bullying and teasing can contribute to gun violence. One of his fictional students reflects: "Maybe there should be a mandatory course in school that teaches kids to respect each other no matter what."