Columbine by Dave Cullen
Twelve, New York, 2009
Borrowed from the library.
This book as won multiple awards and been on many Notable and “Best of” lists.
I waited a long time to read this book. Even though I had no desire to revisit this horrible event I kept hearing and reading about Dave Cullen’s in-depth study of the 1999 Colorado high school shootings. I finally borrowed a copy from the library and discovered that Columbine is so well-written and well-researched that I couldn’t put it down.
I remember Columbine, I remember the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and the horrible images that came over the television. The stories of how these two students snapped and went after jocks, seeking revenge for bullying and harassment and how the “Trench Coat Mafia” was the group behind the murders was all over the media. Turns out everything they told us about the Columbine shootings was wrong.
Dave Cullen, reporting for Slate.Com, first visited Columbine High School at around noon on April 20th, 1999, the day of the shootings. He spent 9 years researching this book, listening to tapes, watching videos, reading journals and conducting interviews. Talking to students, parents and teachers, investigators and police. He dug deep and his reporting shows it. It come across as clear and balanced.
Cullen gives us background on Harris and Klebold, in a way he makes these “monsters” human. Reading their journals and listening to their friend,s investigators on the case believe Eric Harris was a psychopath and that Dylan Klebold suffered depression. Reading their backgrounds and histories gives a very different view from the one the press reported. The things I found most interesting in Columbine are Cullen’s analysis of the media circus surrounding the incident and the fact that the police covered up information they had on Harris and Klebold. It turns out that this incident could have been avoided if certain people had communicated with other people, including some student who had hints of what was going on but never took the boys seriously. Isn’t that always the way?
Columbine is not easy to read, the descriptions of the shootings and the suffering of the victims is intense, but I found it very worthwhile.
Have you read and reviewed this book? Leave a comment so I can link you.