I've been wondering whether I should write a review of Violent Ends or not, because I wasn't sure that I could critically analyze a fictionalized version of something that's been so very prevalent in the media these days. Shootings are tough ground, especially considering a recent shooting that occurred in an area related to my work.
However, after thinking about it and rereading editor Shaun Hutchinson's letter, I decided to go for it. Because what is literature, if not to hopefully impact and better understand the beliefs and the understanding of the world around us?
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Simon Pulse (first published 2015)
Format read: ARC via publisher
Editor Shaun Hutchinson has carefully put together interconnected stories that share not only the pain of the event itself, but also provide acute clarity into the various puzzle pieces of Kirby's life, which have led to this very violent end.
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.
But I'll confess: I went into the book with mixed thoughts, because books predicated around school shootings can often be tricky territory. They're sometimes done exceptionally well, but I wasn't sure how the multiple perspectives would factor into Kirby's story. Would it ultimately detract away from helping readers develop a full picture of both the shooter and the event itself?
Well, I shouldn't have worried. Because Shaun Hutchinson and seventeen of the most talented writers in YA have teamed up to share the puzzle pieces of Kirby's life with insight provided by friends and classmates, who were both intimately and broadly acquainted with him. Through each story, we get a little closer to just what could have possibly drove Kirby to this end.
While each of the stories stand on their own merit, it doesn't seem fair to judge them individually. So I'll just say that in terms of the whole picture, each story adds a piece to the puzzle that is Kirby, showing just why this young man has been driven to these violent ends.
Each story ultimately asks, and sometimes outright challenges the reader, to ask the question of just what - if anything - could have been done differently to prevent this tragedy from happening. While the temptation is to just write Kirby off as a homicidal monster, something that Beth Revis's main character struggles with in "Violent Beginnings", we see accutely through stories of possibility denied like "The Girl Who Said No" by Trish Doller, or the gentle and painful truths of "Feet First" by Margie Gelbwasser, that this was a young man with complexities and challenges reinforcing his humanity, but also making the end result all the more troubling.
While Violent Ends is a challenging, and often times painful read, it's also a welcome and much needed-look at a reality that has unfortunately become more and more commonplace.
About the contributors:
Other contributing authors include Neal and Brendan Shusterman, Beth Revis, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Courtney Summers, Kendare Blake, Delilah S. Dawson, Steve Brezenoff, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Blythe Woolston, Trish Doller, Mindi Scott, Margie Gelbwasser, Christine Johnson, E.M. Kokie, and Elisa Nader.