Columbine provides an excellent tool to engage students critically with their world, because it provokes such personal reactions. Most can't remember the attack unfolding, but they all know the word Columbine.
They know the implications—it cast a pall over their generation—but they are fuzzy on what actually happened. And why. They are deeply curious.
The subject matter tends to get students reading, but the characters keep them hooked. They say it feels like their lives. It draws them in like a young adult novel, but forces them to confront significant social issues.
The events invite critical analysis. You don't have to badger them to question the reliability of the media, or the impact of cruel behavior on the peers. They will be asking you.
Hot topics for this age group:
- School violence / their own safety.
- Outcasts, loners and marginalized students.
- Heroic survivors, especially Patrick Ireland (and Val Schnurr in the Afterword).
- Teen depression.
- Troubled peers: tolerance vs. self-preservation.
- The magnitude of the myths (shock at how unreliable major media can be).
- Parents—of the killers, and the victims.
That last one may be surprising, but they read it very personally. Even and perhaps especially when they are rebelling, their parents play a central role in their life. It strikes a deep chord.
Coming: Testimonials from faculty, students and librarians who have used the book in college or high school.