Columbine by Dave Cullen

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Columbine by Dave Cullen

Cullen, Dave. Columbine. Twelve, 2009. ISBN 978-0446546935 432 pp. $25.99

*****

It’s been ten years since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned and executed a massive attack at Columbine High School outside of Colorado. At the time, I paid only minimal attention to the media surrounding the event, focusing on what my local teens needed instead, and on the reactions of teens on Slashdot. I admit to being quick to jump to conclusions about poor parenting and bullying/the social hierarachy of modern day education (that I recalled unfondly from my own recent secondary school years).

Cullen’s details of events leading up to and following Columbine reveal Harris as a psychopath and Klebold as an angry and impressionable depressive who showed many signs of the path they were on that adults who cared about them missed–or caught–but were dismissed by the boys themselves, who were expert at deflecting and concealing.

This book was very hard to read straight through and I had to keep putting it down. In spite, I found it mind-bending and utterly engrossing. The engaging storytelling, backed up by facts, makes this a five star book. I appreciated the meticulous research, and the author’s extensive notes to document.

Cullen deals with a difficult subject admirably. He chronicles the timeline of the event, and biographizes the killers as well as the principals, investigators, and several of the murdered and injured students. He takes to task many people, including the media he was part of, religious leaders, administrators who didn’t react, and local police. He concludes with some of the good that came out of this tragedy: local legislation, changes in how armed gunman with hostages are responded to by law enforcement, more awareness of signs of troubled youth.

Images are sorely lacking, but Cullen’s vivid descriptions make up in part for the lack of illustrations. This is a must read for anyone who works with youth.

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