Finished Parkland by Dave Cullen. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The New York Times bestselling author of Columbine offers a deeply moving account of the extraordinary teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting who pushed back against the NRA and Congressional leaders and launched the singular grassroots March for Our Lives movement.

Emma Gonzalez called BS. David Hogg called out Adult America. The uprising had begun. Cameron Kasky immediately recruited a colorful band of theatre kids and rising activists and brought them together in his living room to map out a movement. Four days after escaping Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two dozen extraordinary kids announced the audacious March for Our Lives. A month later, it was the fourth largest protest in American history.

Dave Cullen, who has been reporting on the epidemic of school shootings for two decades, takes us along on the students’ nine-month odyssey to the midterms and beyond. With unrivaled access to their friends and families, meetings and homes, he pulls back the curtain to reveal intimate portraits of the quirky, playful organizers that have taken the nation by storm.

Cullen brings us onto the bus for the Road to Change tour showing us how these kids seized an opportunity. They hit the highway to organize the young activist groups mushrooming across America in their image. Rattled but undeterred, they pressed on in gun country even as adversaries armed with assault weapons tailed them across Texas and Utah trying to scare them off.

The Parkland students are genuinely candid about their experiences. We see them cope with shattered friendships and PTSD, along with the normal day-to-day struggles of school, including AP exams and college acceptances. Yet, with the idealism of youth they are mostly bubbling with fresh ideas. As victims refusing victimhood, they continue to devise clever new tactics to stir their generation to action while building a powerhouse network to match the NRA’s.

This spell-binding book is a testament to change and a perceptive examination of a pivotal moment in American culture. After two decades of adult hand-wringing, the MFOL kids are mapping a way out. They see a long road ahead, a generational struggle to save every kid of every color from the ravages of gun violence in America. Parkland is a story of staggering empowerment and hope, told through the wildly creative and wickedly funny voices of a group of remarkable kids.”

The first thing that’s important to remember is that last year at this time, we didn’t know who David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jackie Corin or Emma Gonzalez were. It hasn’t even been a year since seventeen people were murdered in Parkland. Every time I think about that, it shocks me. These kids are household names, and it feels like they always have been.

The second thing—and this is more important—is that they, like all American kids in their generation, have grown up in the age of mass shootings in general and school shootings in particular. They haven’t known a world without them. I was in college when Columbine happened; they weren’t even born yet.

That’s probably why they reacted the way they did. They realized this whole time that adults weren’t going to save them, but after the shooting at their school, they realized they would have to save themselves and everyone else.

It is awe-inspiring to see what they’ve done in under a year and I’m sure we’re going to continue to see great things from them.

This book doesn’t go into the details of the shooting, but it does show how they took a horrific day and worked to do everything they could to make it stop with them. At the same time, they’re realistic. They’ve said repeatedly that they don’t want to take away all the guns; in fact, Cameron and David have grown up around them. They just want to make it harder for people to use guns to kill people. (I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that that’s a good goal, right? Fewer murders?)

Parkland made me angry but it’s also an inspiring story and a hopeful one. It’s easy to give up, but they haven’t. Neither can we.

Highly recommended.

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