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Shooter

by Caroline Pignat

Fresh off her second Governor General’s Literary Award win, Caroline Pignat delivers a YA novel that echoes the beloved 1985 movie The Breakfast Club, but set against the very modern, much more serious backdrop of a school shooting.

BfYPMay_shooter_CoverWhen their high school goes into lockdown, five students from various levels of the peer pecking order are forced together in most unsanitary of locations: the boys’ washroom. There’s popular rich girl Isabelle; jock-turned-deadbeat Hogan; socially awkward Xander; nerd girl Alice; and Alice’s autistic brother, Noah. After eight minutes of arguing and belittling one another (a “countdown clock” gives readers a sense of things unfolding in real time), Isabelle gets a text: “OMG NOT A DRILL!” Half an hour later she gets another text. The police are looking for two possible shooters. One is carrying out “Operation Resolution.” The other is among the group in the boys’ washroom.

Pignat uses various methods to relate the action in Shooter, including first-person narration by each of the five main characters, homework assignments, journal entries, poetry, text messages, and graphics. Through all of this, the author masterfully maintains each voice, giving readers an intimate view of how the characters feel about themselves, each other, and the unfolding events. Moments shift seamlessly between the funny (Xander comparing Isabelle’s life to his stretched out blue Hanes underwear), the human (survivor guilt, parental pressure), and the heartbreaking (a shoebox of photos that exposes hidden truths). Pignat deftly peels away the layers of the superficial personas, enabling the teens to appreciate and respect one another. They may never be friends, but during the crisis, the kids become interdependent and realize that only by working together can they potentially prevent Operation Resolution’s imminent and grisly finale.

A Saturday spent in detention is a far cry from a school lockdown, but like The Breakfast Club, Shooter delves into the teen psyche to reveal shared truths. While the kids here don’t walk out of school with a rosier outlook on life and love, the ending isn’t all doom and gloom, speaking as it does to the imperativeness of stepping outside oneself and making genuine connections.