Author: Dave Cullen
Read: May 15, 2014
Summary: Ten years in the making and a masterpiece of reportage, "Columbine" is an award-winning journalist's definitive account of one of the most shocking massacres in American history.
It is driven by two questions: what drove these killers, and what did they do to this town?
"On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma City-style, and to leave a lasting impression on the world. Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence--irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting 'another Columbine.
"When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot; and we think of the boy pulling himself out of a school window--the whole world was watching him. Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to the prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal.
"The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who were secretly stockpiling a basement cache of weapons, recording their raging hatred, and manipulating every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys' tapes and diaries, he gives the best complete account of the Columbine tragedy.
"In the tradition of Helter Skelter and In Cold Blood, COLUMBINE is destined to be a classic. A close-up portrait of violence, a community rendered helpless, and police blunders and cover-ups, it is a compelling and utterly human portrait of two killers--an unforgettable cautionary tale for our time." goodreads
Review: Well, I read it. Putting this book on my TBR shelf, I was well aware that this would trigger some stuff, I just didn't know how much stuff was there. On this side of it, I'm extremely glad I read it because it exorcised some demons I didn't know I had and I finally have all of the facts that I was too young to understand when it happened. That being said, reading this book was one of the most emotional reads of my life. There were points in the first half of the book where I got light-headed and dizzy (some was pretty graphic) and others where I just had to put it down and walk away. I'm sure everyone who has read this book has moments like this but for me, it was even more than expected.
I explained earlier this week how I interpreted Columbine growing up in CO and once I moved away, so that should explain all of the feels this book brings up. This books falls into the 'true crime' genre like In Cold Blood. I read Capote's novel a year or so ago and I remember being creeped out by it but thoroughly intrigued. It's interesting to hear the details of a well known crime in our country. The difference is, I was so far removed from that book that I had not even heard of the actual crime until reading about. Obviously not the case with this one.
I don't want to focus on all my feels during this whole review because there is much more to it than just my reaction. While the events were horrific, the way this story was told presented them in a way to give the reader a glimpse into who Eric and Dylan were. Dave Cullen does a good job of explaining the concept of a psychopath and explicitly provides evidence to prove that Eric was one. By doing so, he seems to relieve Dylan of some of the guilt because he was so caught up in Eric's plan that he just followed along and didn't know what he was actually doing. I'm not sure I completely agree with this view of it but I really enjoyed hearing about the psychological assessment of the boys.
The format of the book was a little weird for me. The first half of the book introduces some of the main people but focuses mostly on the details the day of. The second half of the book goes backwards and fills in the back story of Dylan and Eric and allows the reader to understand some more of who they were and what they were capable of. It also focuses on the aftermath and the psychology of what the boys did. I would have preferred if the first half would have focused on Dylan and Eric's background and led up to the shootings but this book jumped right in.
Cullen did a good job of providing all of the evidence and theories which I didn't know very much about. As hard as it was to hear the details of the shootings, it actually helped me to understand what actually happened. As a child, I had lots of ideas of what happened and had heard all of the rumors but a lot of it got twisted over the years. While the details are intense, they actually helped me work out some of my own feelings.
In the end, I'm glad I read this book for both personal reasons and literary ones. I'm interested in true crime and I think this book was done well for anyone who likes that genre. Parts of the book are hard to read because they are true and actually happened but I'm assuming it would be easier for some more than others. If you've read this book, leave a comment letting me know what you think!
Have you read this book? What do you remember about Columbine?