This is Not a Drill - by Beck McDowell
This is Not a Drill

"relates to 21st century life and what can happen in a regular school day... trust me, this book is worth reading."


This is Not a Drill is a book about two high school students, Emery and Jake, and their fight to save children held hostage. Ms. McDowell is an author who used to teach at Huntsville High. Her work in This is Not a Drill was really good, incuding her diction and points of view.

This book kept on the edge of my seat the whole time. It never made me want to put it down. The way all this relates to high school life – to everything that could happen in an average day - is amazing. Ms. McDowell wrote it like a teenager and used real life scenarios of high school students and what happens. The part about the party and Jake being kissed by the senior has happened before. Cheating is a huge thing.

Also using today's technology, such as the Wi-Fi Hotspot, is related. The way this incident has happened before and can happen any day is mind-blowing. PTSD is seen a lot in military personnel every day when they come back home. The wars in the Middle East are still going on and now every day soldiers are returning. However, every soldier that returns bring back memories about what they went through, memories that cause nightmares and fear. Sometimes memories of losing a friend.

The book, I think, is moving and inspiring. In the closest thing to death that can happen for these teenagers, they keep calm and protect everyone from the lunatic. There was small stuff I did not like such as how fast everything happened or how the flashbacks were mostly about the relationship rather than their lives and what experiences led to this but those are small stuff. The parts when the kids would be yelled at was the tensest parts to me because anything could have happened to the kids or something could have gone wrong and one of the kids would not make it. In addition, when everything goes wrong and someone is hurt. I would be scared thinking what the maniac would do next to the poor children, Emory, and Jake.

Social Networking is used a lot in the book to save the lives of the children. What I did not like was how the police took a long time to come to the rescue and how they had a rookie police on the job during a crisis like this. There needs to be trained professionals in action because when stuff like this happens, no one knows what the outcome will be like or who will or will not get hurt. These things can happen in real life and people that have not experienced these things do not need to be battling for the lives of others.

Overall, this book was wonderful. I enjoyed reading it and I recommend this book to any young teenager/ young adult reader. It relates to 21st century life and what can or cannot happen in a regular school day. Ms. McDowell has done a wonderful job writing this book and trust me this book will be worth reading.

   - Mauhan T.



"Although he is crazy for holding first graders hostage, the author makes the reader feel pity for the man who will be left with nothing if he loses his son."


If you need a book to read, I highly recommend the book, This is Not a Drill, by Beck McDowell. McDowell is a young adult author who also wrote, Last Bus Out, Beck McDowell is a former high school AP English teacher at Huntsville High School. She and her students created the website www.notrequiredreading.com to share their reviews and book trailers. You can write a review on any young adult book that you have read and submit it to the website for Beck to review. In addition, you can read other people's reviews and book trailers to learn about other books.

The novel, This is Not a Drill, is a very intriguing novel that keeps you on your toes all the time. Every chapter alternates between the view point of Jake and Emery. This really helps the reader experience the whole story and how things are seen differently between very different characters. I like how the author quickly gets into the story and does not drag it out to explain what happens. This helps grab the reader's attention and once the reader gets into the story, it is hard to stop reading. I also like how realistic the story is. Although it does not happen often, it is very possible that a soldier would come home from war with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and just want to see his kid. The author also does a good job showing the soldier's innocence as well. It is easy to feel bad for the soldier after he tells his stories and explains why he is acting the way he is. I felt bad for the soldier the more I read the novel and developed a knowledge of his story. Although he is crazy for holding a class of first graders hostage with a gun, the author also shows a softer side of the soldier that makes the reader feel pity for the helpless man who will be left with nothing if he loses his son.

However, I do think that Jake and Emery reflected on their past relationship and current relationship too much. I think it was good to acknowledge the fact that they used to be together, but I did not like that they were thinking about their love life in the middle of an intense moment in the story. I think the author should have focused only on what was going on at that time instead of their love life.

The author did a good job portraying the first graders in my opinion. The children maintained a mostly calm state the whole time, except for a few outbursts. I think that if the children were whining and crying the whole time, then the reader would become annoyed with the children and uninterested in the story. Instead, the reader grows respect and sympathy for the young children who are in a life or death situation.

Overall, the novel is a very easy read and hard to put down. The plot is very fast-paced which keeps the reader's attention very well. It is very suspenseful and tense at times and others seem less stressful and tense. The novel definitely plays on the feelings and emotions of the reader and has very distinct ups and downs.

   - Katie M.



"a combination of many genres that work together"


Beck McDowell's first novel This Is Not a Drill is well written and very intriguing. In fact, it is so intriguing that once I began to read, it became like an addictive drug. As I progressively read through the first sentences, pages, and chapters of the book, I became more eager to explore the several complexities of the book's plot.

Emery and Jake are high school seniors who share a romantic history. Jake is the mayor's son who earned a bad boy reputation after being taken to jail on a drug charge. Emery is president of the Honor Society and battles with her POTS diagnosis. They were very much in love with one another during the beginning years of high school, but Jake took a part in one reckless night that put a halt to their love story. Emery was left broken hearted and Jake was left remorseful. He did everything in his power to try to persuade Emery to forgive him, but she was not having it. As soon as she became accustomed to life without Jake, she was forced to deal with him once again. Both Jake and Emery were to teach first grade students of Mrs. Campbell's class the French language.

One day while the two are on duty, a man by the name of Stutts barges into the classroom. He is a veteran of war and has post-traumatic stress disorder. Since he returned home, he has had a hard time adjusting back to society and is extremely violent. As a result, his wife files for full custody of their son, Patrick. Stutts enters Mrs. Campbell's first grade classroom in an attempt to take his son. Mrs. Campbell informs him that they only way he will be able to check Patrick out of school is if he does it at the front office. After a few exchanged words, Stutts leaves the room; although, he soon returns. This time he has become more aggressive. Mrs. Campbell still refuses to release Patrick for his own safety and because it would contradict school policy. Stutts bursts into an outrage and pulls a gun on Mrs. Campbell. He has no other choice, but to keep her, Jake, Emery, and the children hostage until he is able to escape the building with his son. Emery and Jake are both terrified, but manage to keep their composure for the children.

This is Not a Drill is a book that targets teenagers and young adults. The novel can be considered as a combination of many genres that work together to create a masterpiece.

   - Alexandria H.



"raises awareness about many diseases like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and diabetes. disease."


This novel is about two high school seniors trapped inside a first-grade classroom. A father of one of the first-graders attempts to remove his son from the classroom and uses a gun to get what he wants. When cops surround the building, he transforms the classroom into a hostage situation. These two high school seniors, Emery and Jake, tell their sides of the story, revealing, as the story goes on, the details of their messy break.

The day starts off normal, but when Brian Stutts attempts to remove his son from the classroom, he is stopped by the Mrs. Campbell, the teacher, he retaliates and brings out a gun. He is afraid of the security guard down the hall, who might or might not have a gun.

I liked this book. The author Beck McDowell used to be a teacher, and this would be one of her worst nightmares. She shows how courage can be found in even the most unlikely people. Jake, the baseball player, seems to be a selfish guy in the beginning, but he finds the courage to fight back. McDowell also shows that hanging out with bad people does not immediately make you bad. Jake hangs out with the druggies, but chooses not to do drugs. He has a control-freak stepmom who tries to control every aspect of his life.

Emery also shows courage. As a quiet girl, she would be expected to be frightened and intimidated by the gunman entering the room. Instead, she finds ways to defy Brian's rules he places on the classroom to help save these innocent first-graders. Even when she is specifically told not to have any internet access, she and Jake find a way to conceal their internet use. Not only does she prove herself book smart by becoming the president of the National Honor Society, but she also proves she has the capacity to work well under stress.

The way the author uses the dual-narrators in this story gave me a good view of what was going on throughout the book. Had it been single-narrator, the story would better defend the person who told the story. Both Emery and Jake had different sides to their relationship story, and to only tell one side would not do it justice.

This book is also used to raise awareness about many diseases many people commonly have. One of these is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is what Brian Stutts has, as he fought in Iraq against Al-Qaeda. The fear of a terrorist sniper coming out from anywhere kept him super-alert and stressed his entire time in Iraq. This is a common disease among army veterans, and Beck McDowell uses it in her book to support finding a way to cure this disease. Another disease shown is Mrs. Campbell's diabetes. This strong woman has had a diabetes attack in the middle of this event, and it could happen to anyone. Many Americans have this disease, but no cure has been found except for insulin shots every day. Jake and Emery are at a loss for a moment without their teacher to help them control the class, but they eventually step up to the challenge.

   - Tyler S.



"The book is hard to put down. ‘This is not a Drill' will keep suspense and drama fans reading all day."


This is not a Drill by Beck McDowell takes place in the little town of Hensonville. The two storytellers, Jake and Emery, are high school seniors who offered to teach some first graders French. Ms. Campbell is the class' teacher; all the kids love her. The story starts out with Jake and Emery teaching the kids some of the French words for animals. Suddenly, a large, muscular man named Brian Stutts walks in to Ms. Campbell's room and demands his son. When he is denied his son, he takes the room hostage at gunpoint. Ms. Campbell faints and is carried out by Jake. Jake and Emery are now the only defense for the kids from Stutts.

I found the book very interesting. The plot had many twists and turns as Emery and Jake try to keep the man calm. The book is filled with suspense as they try to save the first graders, who have no idea what is going on. I found McDowell's writing style very interesting as she switches from Jake's point of view to Emery's. She constructed the book very well, but I found the switch in point of view to be very confusing at first. Even though I had to read over the chapter because of this confusion, I still found the book very entertaining. The story held my attention from the opening line. It was extremely well written. This is not a Drill takes an in-depth look at what happens when things go extremely wrong. The book has an exciting plot as they try to protect the kids.

The subplot of Jake and Emery formerly dating truly adds tension to the situation. They have conversations on what happened between them as they are protecting the kids. This adds to the already suspenseful situation as they have quiet arguments during the hostage crisis. I found this ironic how the hostage situation is life and death and they are talking about what happened between the two of them. I think that it would have been much better if the story of their break up had come before the gunman had taken the building. That way, the hostage situation is just them trying to work together to save the kids. The book, in my opinion, did a very good job of the subplot of their relationship. It added a completely new level of suspense to the book.

When I read this book, I was blown away by the oddness of this story. Honestly, a man goes in and takes a room of first graders hostage. When does that happen? Even though the story is a bit out there, it still was very entertaining throughout the entire novel. There was never a dull moment in this book. It keeps you reading and reading until you are finished. The book is hard to put down. Everywhere you turn the book is filled with suspense and there are dabs of action to speed things up every now and then. This is not a Drill will keep suspense and drama fans reading all day.

   - Nathaniel C.



"interesting and suspenseful. It has a little bit of romance and can connect with readers. It's very inspiring."


This is Not a Drill, written by Beck McDowell, is a very exciting and suspenseful book. Beck is a YA author and used to be middle and high school AP English teacher. I really enjoyed reading her book and would definitely recommend it.

This is an eye-opening book because it makes you realize that this kind of situation can happen and actually does. The book is about Jake and Emery who tutor first graders. Emery and Jake used to date but had a bad break up. They experience a traumatic situation when one of the student's dad, Mr. Stutts, tries to come and take him out of class. Mr. Stutts takes out a gun and threatens the children and the teacher.

I like that the book was very suspenseful and kept you on the edge of your seat. It made you want to keep on reading more and was hard to put the book down. I didn't like that the book was affecting first graders because they are so young and makes me sad to think that that could happen to kids that age. I also really liked that there was kind of a romantic story in the book too because I enjoy romance books. I think that the characters were developed really well and I liked the personality of all the characters.

It didn't tell you all about the characters at the beginning, but it told more about them as the book went on. I liked this aspect of the book. I think it made the characters more interesting and kept you guessing about them.

This book is very different from other books that I have read. I don't usually read suspenseful books but I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed that the book was told in both Jake and Emery's point of view. It helps you see both sides of the story and understand what really happened. The plot was spaced out very well; although, at some points in the story it would start to get a little slow but then it would start to speed up again.

"We are under an emergency alert. Teachers, do not allow students to leave your classroom for any reason. Lock your doors and keep your students inside." The principal pauses, then says more slowly, "Teachers, this is not a drill!" This quote creates a very panicked feeling because it lets you know that this is real. It also creates a scary feeling because usually it is a drill and you wouldn't expect it to be real.

I really enjoyed This Is Not a Drill and encourage everyone to read it. It's a very good story and is interesting and suspenseful. It has a little bit of romance in it and can connect with readers. It's very inspiring. Will Jake and Emery get back together? Will Mr. Stutts get away with his kid? Will any lives be lost? Read the book and find out!

   - Kathryn W.



'a definite 'need to read' - even if you're not much of a book reader - like me"

"This Is Not a Drill" is a phrase most of us hope to never hear, but a scary realization is that bad things happen and we need to think about what could happen and what we might do in response. Beck McDowell captures this extreme topic in her riveting book This Is Not a Drill.

To set the stage, we find ourselves with two high school kids, Emery Austin and Jake Willoughby, who have been through a messy break-up and are forced to pair together and tutor a class of first graders. As if their predicament weren't crazy enough, toss in a crazed dad/soldier with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) he devolved from his recent tours in Iraq, resulting in an awful custody battle where he is losing his kid - and the small fact he is ARMED and wants his kid. These two are forced to test their already mangled relationship and try and keep a bunch of first graders calm while a traumatized man with a gun has them hostage!

I personally loved this book. I always imagine scenarios where things go from bad to worse and wonder what I would do. The problem I always hit is they become way too un-realistic, but that is not a problem for McDowell. She jumps this hurtle and makes everything so real and possible it leaves you hanging on for every line. Another reason I love this book is because I myself am not a huge reader and only read occasionally. I prefer something that doesn't drag on and on, but finding a great and thrilling short book is hard. This book, only 214 ages, is a perfect fit for my narrow interests. It's a great, short read for someone who is looking for a good book, but not wanting to be bogged down with the goliath 500-600 page bigg-ins. The only problem I have to warn you about is don't start this thing unless you have some free time because you won't want to put it down.

McDowell, a former teacher, brings an element of prior knowledge of the classroom that most don't know firsthand. This plays a key role in how she is able to grasp the setting it give it a sense of reality that can blur the bounds of real and fiction.

To wrap it up, This Is Not a Drill - definite 'need to read," even if you're not so much of a book reader (like me), you'll be surprised at how this book can send you looking for a new book to quench your thirst. Good luck, though, because I haven't found a short book this good since Of Mice and Men. To further my point, this is the first book I've elected to read on my own since 4 years. This book opens your imagination even after you've finished it. It makes you put yourself in that situation and gets you imagining your own crazy adventure.

   -- Brian C.



'the first graders are innocent, a contrast to the terrible things Brian Stutts has seen in Iraq"

I thought this book by Beck McDowell, a former teacher at Huntsville High School and now a full-time author, was really good and well written. It wasn't too long and got interesting quickly, which is good because I, like many other teenagers, get bored easily. I enjoyed this book because I could read it without any trouble. There weren't many big words that I didn't understand, and I found I could relate to the high school students and their tutoring. Since I'm a sophomore in high school and I helped tutor kindergartners in 8th grade, I understand the troubles of trying to get a group of little kids to be quiet and listen.

The book itself is about two high school students, Jake and Emery, who help tutor 1st graders three days a week. The irony is that they just recently broke up, which we all know is going to lead to some tense moments between the two of them. It's just a normal Friday morning and Emery and Jake are in the middle of teaching the 1st graders their French lesson when Brian Stutts, the father of one of the first graders comes in to get his son, Patrick. Stutts has just recently returned form Iraq and his wife wants to get full custody of their son because Brian ha Port-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This disorder causes him to overreact to things with anger and violence. The teacher, Mrs. Campbell, tries her best to keep him calm but her many attempts fail. He gets tired of being told he can't have his son and pulls out a gun. That is when all chaos breaks loose. Brian keeps the class hostage while the SWAT team is called in and police cars arrive at the school. They evacuate as many of the students as possible. Emery and Jake have to work together to keep the 1st graders and Mrs. Campbell safe. What will happen if he gets pushed too far?

The book is told in alternating viewpoints of Emery and Jake which I enjoy because it shows how each of them reacts to the same problem. This helps the reader get to know the characters' personality better. Not many books do that and some of the books that do don't do it too well. The storyline had me on my feet. It was hard for me to put the book down because I desperately wanted to keep reading to find out what would become of the little 1st graders, Emery and Jake, and Mrs. Campbell. But at the same time there was comical relief from the 1st graders. Because the 1st graders are too young they tend to say things without thinking. The story also showed how kind and loving 1st graders are when put in a serious situation. They are so young and innocent to the world. A complete contrast to Brian Stutts, who has seen terrible things while over in Iraq.There were not many things that I did not like about this book It had a great plot, dialogue, and the ending was perfect. I did think that having 1st graders learning French in the beginning was a little far-fetched but other than that, it was flawless. This is definitely a book I will recommend to my friend and family. It had a touching storyline and made me thankful for what I have. You never know when you might be put in a situation were you won't have another chance to say, 'I love you" to those you care about. All in all, I thought this book was wonderful.

   - Audrey L.