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School Shootings In Literature; A Sadly Growing Genre

Our country continues to mourn victims of mass school shootings. Columbine wasn’t the first, but in two decades since, there have been over 200 more school shootings in the United States.

Media coverage is often extensive; the aftermath becomes a shared experience nationwide. We become rightfully concerned about safety, that of our own, our loved ones, and the children of people we don’t know and have never met. We worry whether it will happen again, perhaps in our own community.

Teachers, school administrators, and students should not have to worry about whether someone will come into their school with a gun. Parents should not have to worry if their child is in lockdown, or worse, one of the victims. But, unfortunately, that is our current reality.

Young adults face a myriad of social issues these days; teenagers need and want to be more educated about what is happening in the world. They aren’t afraid to read about tough topics such as racism and gun violence; indeed, they need to read about such issues. Thoughts, prayers, and rallies aren’t getting the job done, and these teenagers want to be proactive in preventing such tragedies.

This is one reason we are seeing more and more books on subjects that teens face in the world today. Young readers often turn to literature for answers, even when they know some things are beyond explanation.

Over the last several years, many authors have taken on school shootings in their novels, providing insight into gun violence, bullying, and mental illness. These novels help young readers digest what is happening.

Some stories are told from the survivor’s perspective; others tell the account of family members of the shooter or the victims. Some may even convey the story from the shooter’s perspective. They may leave readers with a call to action or questions to contemplate, such as “What do you think should be done to keep people safe from gun violence?” or “What actions might make a difference?”

Each, although different, aims to provide hope – hope to understand the roots of violence; hope that survivors will find the strength to move on; hope for stronger gun laws; hope for better mental healthcare.

The 5th Zachary Blake Legal Thriller series novel, Betrayal High, will be available this April. I am grateful for my editors and beta readers who believe Betrayal High is a compelling read, engaging as Todd Strasser’s Give a Boy a Gun, Jennifer Brown’s Hate List, and Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends.

Betrayal High begins with a fictional high school shooting. As the school day begins, 17-year-old Kevin Burns arrives heavily armed. As he begins to shoot fellow students and teachers, the school goes into lockdown. Kenny Tracey (Zachary Blake’s son) confronts the shooter in the hall. Despite being shot, he takes down the shooter and ultimately saves the lives of many of his fellow classmates.

Betrayal High takes the reader through the shooter’s motives, which may cause some readers to empathize with him; however, he must be held accountable for his actions. Justice for Kevin is not enough for Zachary Blake—he wants to hold the gun makers responsible—he advocates for manufacturer’s civil liability in court, and gun control in the political arena. He strongly believes that these two things will help end school shootings

There are no easy solutions to the problem of gun violence in our schools. I hope Betrayal High, like other novels about this frightening topic, will be a useful tool for parents, teachers, and young adults in exploring these issues and demanding change in how we regulate guns and gun makers in our political and civil justice systems.

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