I read this book for the first time whilst I was in university and honestly, it scared the living daylights out of me. When I first bought it, I already knew what it was about but seriously, I couldn’t resist but read it. I was hoping it wasn’t overly gory with details of the actual shooting but I was also hoping that there was a good amount of investigation in the books into why, where and when. The fact that it was Columbine that caused a number of other school shootings in America with a lot of them doing it in order to feel belonging and fame, means that this book is highly relevant not only to its own time and decade but to ours as well. When it comes to school shootings, there is one thing that they all have in common - they have a child or young person with a high temper, emotional strain and anxieties and depression wielding a weapon in which they have no or very little control of their actions. This book seeks to prove that not only that is true but influence and this almost cult worship culture has intensified the culture and association around the school shooting and massacre history over the years.
When it comes to non-fiction, Columbine by Dave Cullen is about as good as it gets. When it starts, it starts from before the beginning of the massacre and even before anyone suspects a single thing about the massacre. It comes before the photograph of the two of them holding up guns with their fingers to the camera and it comes before the loneliness and the subject of depression even comes into it. It actually starts from the point in which they are just friends, they are just at school and it begins in a very “In Cold Blood” way. These two boys are just your average American teenage boys and yet, they will become monsters in less than a years’ time. When they actually do the shooting, it takes the reader a great amount of time to process their feelings towards the event and I have seen that the author is making us feel about these boys the way in which their classmates would’ve. The classmates left alive would be confused and estranged from the school, they would feel conflicted and not be able to understand how these boys they once knew would become ruthless killers in less than one school year.
Dave Cullen’s writing is brutal. He is journalistic genius at its best and is able to write in both a personal and a cultural importance. When it comes to the personal, Dave Cullen is able to write about the school and how the survivors felt about the incident and finally, what it did for the school’s reputation and more. Culturally, he writes about how it had an impact on American Gun Rights and how it became the centre of an argument that was only just beginning. We get to see how Dave Cullen puts it up against the microscope in terms of whether these guns should have more regulations and tracking. We also get to see how the future of America has been impacted through the way in which Columbine’s massacre has not only been seen by the world but also how it was reported by the media. We get testimonies from the people that were there, references from the parents of the boys and even some of the commentary from other important people in the sphere. It is a very strange book but it is also the most immersive thing you’ll read for a while.
When I read it for a second and third time, I got to see how Dave Cullen’s style was attempting not to be overtly politically involved, he didn’t want to give his own political opinion but neither did he want to glorify the killings. He gave us enough information so that we understand the who, where, when, why and how, but he didn’t give us lengthy political anecdotes. When it comes to politics, he gives us an impact and a past, present and whether it is or isn’t, a future. The future of the American children is obviously a touchy one now that we know that Columbine started something that cannot be fully repaired.