By November 3, 2009 1 Comments Read More →

Pairing Reading

I know I’ve been on a kick lately pairing books for discussions. I  like having all the related reading in one place. Also, I want to give readers a choice in titles if the topic is going to be difficult for some to handle.hatelist

Possibly no subject is more harrowing than the tragedy at Columbine High School in April, 1999. Many nonfiction books have been published about this bedroom community outside of Denver, Colorado. Many novels have explored this story from numerous angles; embellishing, suppressing, tweaking, details to create a narrative that makes sense of a senseless act.

As horrific as this event was, people will still be reading about it and especially this year, the tenth anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Two books that present balanced, thoughtful accounts, and offer new insights are The Hate List by Jennifer Brown and Columbine by Dave Cullen.

Brown’s young adult novel tells the story of Valerie, the girlfriend of Nick, the junior who tired of the bullying and name calling, and brought a gun to school one day. Even though Valerie tried to stop Nick by throwing herself in front of a student who regularly tormented both of them, she is deemed an active participant in this heinous act. Authorities found the “hate list” she had started one day out of frustration and had loaned to Nick. After spending the summer in seclusion, Valerie makes the courageous decision to go back to high school to graduate. Many of her classmates have changed, some for the better, some for worse, and don’t know how to view Valerie. Is she to be lauded or blamed for her part in this piece of school history?

Brown’s novel will appeal to adults as well as teens and the author carefully crafts a character both frustrating and sympathetic to tell the story of one’s school’s brush with death.

Dave Cullen, an award-winning journalist who has been researching the Columbine tragedy for almost ten years, also offers a powerful, truthful account of what led up to that violent spring day and the terrible aftermath. He debunks a few myths that have sprung from this event.


Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were not sullen, friendless, outsiders as portrayed by the media. Cassie Bernall did not have a chance to speak before she died, but survivor Valeen Schnurr did. There were reports and files that were kept hidden and some interviews that will not be revealed to the public until 2016.

Readers will have no trouble comparing Columbine to another classic in the true crime genre, In Cold Blood. The research and narrative are unparalleled and much as readers will want to look away, Cullen writes in a manner that keeps eyes riveted to the text.nineteen-minutes

If these two books are too raw, consider presenting a third selection from an author who is a book group favorite, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Picoult’s novel provides multiple viewpoints of a high school shooting with a twist ending. It’s much lighter in tone than The Hate List or Columbine, but readers will find connections between all three.



About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

1 Comment on "Pairing Reading"

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  1.' Dave Cullen says:

    Thanks for the nice words on my book, Kaite.

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