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  • Review: Karmic Hearts by Jhing Bautista
  • Review: The Conspiration of the Universe by Kenneth Olanday

Saturday, December 1, 2012

ARC Review: This Is Not A Drill by Beck McDowell

War changes people. It makes you twisted, transforms you into someone unrecognizable. If we think the people who go to war for us are heroes, then what does going to war mean for them? What kind of horrors do they see? What kind of nightmares invade their dreams? What kind of men and women are they when they come back alive? Brian Stutts is a soldier and a father. He was a hero, and he just wants his son back. This is a story about two teens who faced a soldier, destroyed by war, and how this man changed both of their lives forever.

Title: This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell
Pages: 216
Release Date: November 1st 2012
Published by: Hardie Grant Egmont
Source: Publisher (Thanks Jenn!)
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository


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.

It all started off as a typical YA book, with Emery, a girl suffering from POTS, trying to convince herself that she has gotten over the boy she loved, who also happens to be her partner for teaching children. Then there's this boy, Jake, the mayor's son, who was still reeling from the loss of his mother, immature, too friendly, and with poor choice of friends, became a bad boy overnight and ruined whatever it was he and Emery had. Both had their issues and challenges they need to work on, but one unsuspecting day turned out to be one of the most trying time of their lives, a time that will help them face their fears and evaluate just what their lives really meant as they come face to face with a man who, fulfilling his duty for his country, has turned into someone else and he can never be the same again.

I was apprehensive at first, because I don't think I will be able to relate to the story itself, but I found myself responding to this book more than I intended to. There were times where I felt the romantic conflict between Jake and Emery were unnecessary, bland even, compared to what the soldier Brian Stutts had to go through. It's the kind of book where you will stop and evaluate yourself and think hard of what we perceive is right or wrong. Does the end, really, justify the means? Was the act of taking a class full of children as hostages be forgiven if it was done by a soldier who suffered so much because of the war? Does being a soldier and being messed up absolve Brian of what he's done? What about the lives of the children he has endangered? Beck McDowell gives the readers a story full of conflicting emotions, discussing deep, complicated themes that will make us all take a step back and look at what the effects of the war in a person.

But I did not dismiss Jake and Emery as characters as easily as I thought I could. The author also made it a point to give depth to both their characters and give them a solid background that readers can also be interested in reading of. They both had their own problems to deal with, and they were suddenly faced with something bigger, that they both had to put aside their worries and do whatever it takes to save the children with them. Suddenly it's not about a girl struggling with a sickness that makes her feel abnormal, it's not about the black sheep of the family, the son of the mayor who deep inside has not moved on with the death of his mother, choosing to cover up his feelings by putting on a friendly, cheerful mask for everyone to see. It's also worth looking at both Jake and Emery's life and see how such a traumatic experience can, ironically, help them both think of their life a little more carefully and take the leap, to do something to change it, maybe, for the better.

I'd like to say that the flashbacks, the moments between Jake and Emery were sweet and enjoyable, but what really made an impact on me as a reader was the story behind the soldier, Brian Stutts and his life in the army. What he had to give to serve his country and go to war so that others wouldn't need to. It was tragic and in more ways than one, the truth. I might not be from a family that has served during the war, but the way Brian recounted his experiences as a soldier in Iraq is in itself sad and horrifying. My feelings for him is a mix of pity, sadness and a little bit of understanding, because in some ways, he's also a father who just misses his son, a husband who needs a wife, and a friend who lost a comrade.  

Beck McDowell stirred a riot of emotions in me through this book. It's a one of a kind experience to read this, and it's something I haven't read before. Surprisingly deep and oftentimes, emotionally tiring, This Is Not A Drill is a book that is easy to read, but so hard to digest, what with the conflicts involved and the feelings it gives the readers. I admire Beck McDowell for being able to write something like this, and tells us a story with themes and topics that are relevant today. I'm sure a lot of people will appreciate the story this book presents. It's a worthwhile read, and it may be a little bit out of my comfort zone, but I am glad that I gave this book a chance.

Content (plot, story flow, character):
This Is Not A Drill is one of the most memorable books I've read this year.
Shining: Worthy of a Goddess' Love!

Book Cover:


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