Aug 062015

Cover for Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson. An empty high school hallway in stark black and white when the title in bold red letters.School Library Journal: A fresh and thought-provoking take on a disturbing but relevant topic. Seventeen chapters, each from a different point of view, tell the story of Kirby Matheson, a teenager who walks into school and opens fire on a pep rally before committing suicide. Narrators vary from those close to Kirby, like his sister, to more removed observers, such as his childhood next-door neighbor. While readers never enter Kirby’s mind, his environment, upbringing, family, and social interactions breathe life into his character. He is dynamic, at times sympathetic and loyal, while also angry, lashing out or isolating himself. Kirby’s various relationships emphasize his humanity and help to avoid stereotyping him as a pure villain. Each chapter becomes a window, slowly revealing what, perhaps, could have driven him to such a heinous act. Ultimately, no concrete reason is defined. Motive is left for teens to determine after exploring Kirby’s experiences with bullying, family drama, and the suggestion of a predatory teacher. Although each chapter is written by a different already established YA author, the narrative is cohesive. Using different voices opens a dialogue on a topic that is too often prevalent in young people’s lives. Kirby’s story is one of how instead of why.