Violent Ends / Ed. Shaun David Hutchinson

Title: Violent Ends

Author: Kendare Blake, Steve Brezenoff, Delilah S. Dawson, Trish Doller, Margie Gelbwasser, E.M. Kokie, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Elisa Nader, Beth Revis, Mindi Scott, Neal Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Blythe Woolston, Christine Johnson, Brendan Shusterman

Editor: Shaun David Hutchinson

Genre: Anthology, YA, Fiction

Publisher: Simon Pulse, September 1st 2015

Pages: 38424885763.jpg

Synopsis: It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others. 

But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t
about recounting that one unforgettable day.

This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, played saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties. 

This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.

I did not expect to see Violent Ends last week when I went to my local Barnes & Noble, but something in particular drew me to this book that day. It could have been the stark white cover and bold red title taking over the spine, or the list of seventeen authors listed on the back―all I knew is that I was hooked from the moment I laid eyes on it. This book was everything that reminded me of what it’s like to be human: Multi-demensional. Complex. Full of grief and overcome with triumphs.

School shootings are a tricky and sensitive topic in fiction. I’ve read my fair share of novels for young adult readers on the topic, but none have hit home quite like Violent Ends. This novel is a collection of short stories written by seventeen authors and told through the perspectives of seventeen different characters, each one of which were impacted by the same school shooting. We never do get the perspective of the shooter, Kirby. Instead we learn who Kirby was and who he became through stories of people who knew him well, and others who barely knew him at all. This left me with multiple versions of Kirby’s character, and not trusting which one to believe. Some thought of him as a loner, a loser, a nice guy, a friend, a monster. Even at the end of the book, I never felt as if I knew who Kirby was, which I think is part of why I found this book so powerful.

Each narrative that made up this anthology was highly focused, giving a wonderful dimension to an already gripping topic. One thing that really hit me was the question “Did you know he was a killer?” I am so glad this question was explored throughout one of the stories. Each author took their short story to a place I could have never imagined it going, and more than once I found myself needing to set the book down and think over what I had just read. If I had to name some favorites they would have to be Miss Susie by Steve Brezenoff, Presumed Destroyed by Neal and Brendan Shusterman, Holes by Hannah Moskowitz, and the raw and disturbing Survival Instincts by Tom Leveen.

The only thing I wish I could have gotten from this book was Kirby’s point-of-view. The end of this collection left me breathless. It rocked me to my very core. And it left me wondering. I was still looking for the answer to the one question on my mind through the entire journey of the book: Why? Why did he do it? Why those kids? They’re the same questions we ask ourselves when we see the headline “Seven Dead, Five Wounded in School Shooting.” There’s never an answer to these questions, just as there is no concrete answer to Kirby’s fictional destruction. I gave this book four stars for that very reason―the complete honesty that radiated at every turn of the page.



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