Friday, September 2, 2011

Review: Columbine

Title: Columbine
Author: Dave Cullen
Publisher: Twelve
Release Date: April 2009
Source: Own
My Rating: 5/5

From Goodreads:  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."

My Thoughts:  Columbine has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. After seeing rave reviews from my online book club, I decided it was time to read it. I was in middle school when the tragedy at Columbine High took place. In fact, I remember watching footage on TV after coming home from school. I remember sitting in my living room with tears running down my face as I watched what was unfolding on TV.

Columbine was so many things. It was informative, eye-opening, well-written, and well-researched. I really like that it corrected the major misconceptions fueled by the media. There was so much that the public didn't know.

The author did a fantastic job of taking the reader back to that tragic day. I felt like he allowed me to get to know the victims and their families. Some parts were gut-wrenching, as I imagined how I would've felt in that moment.

I know the main question on everyone's mind when they think of Columbine is "Why?" Everyone wants to know why Eric and Dylan went on their killing spree. Everyone wants to know why the victims were targeted. I personally don't think we'll ever know the answer to this. The only people who can provide that answer are Eric and Dylan, and we clearly won't be hearing from them. We can speculate as to what caused them to take such drastic measures, but we'll never know for sure. I feel like the research and information provided in this book gives a solid, plausible explanation for Eric and Dylan's motives. I remember thinking that blaming the Columbine tragedy on bullying, violent movies and music, and terrible parenting was too easy. I wasn't surprised at all to find that these "causes" of the attack at Columbine were easily disputed.

I don't think it's appropriate to say that I enjoyed this book, but I did appreciate the information that I gained from it.


  1. I agree that this book was so eye-opening and informative. I gave it a 5/5 as well!

    I borrowed it from my husband, but then we were fighting over the book because it was such a compelling read. So I ended up checking it out from the library so we could read at the same time and talk about it. It's been interesting to discuss it with him because he's a police officer who's been trained to respond to active shooter situations, so he read from a different perspective than me.

  2. This book is on my to-read list. I was 15 when Columbine happened, so I was pretty riveted by what was happening at the time. Thanks for your review.