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Literature / Give a Boy a Gun

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Give a Boy a Gun is a Young Adult novel by Todd Strasser published in 2002. It is about a pair of High School outcasts, Brendan Lawlor and Gary Searle, who decide to shoot up their High-School Dance as a way of getting revenge on the jocks who had picked on them and the faculty members who had ignored their plight or even encouraged the school's culture of bullying. The book is told in interviews with the killers' family, friends, classmates, teachers and neighbors, and explores the myriad causes of school violence.

Comes down very firmly on the "anti-gun" side of American Gun Politics. The very first page declares that a portion of all proceeds from each book sold is being donated to the Million Mom March Foundation.



  • Asshole Victim: Sam Flach. He regularly harasses other kids and his inflated sense of self-importance is just sickening. And later, he gets kneecapped for being such a giant dick.
  • Break the Haughty: The boys' main intent was to scare the people at the dance — it's debatable whether they were actually trying to kill anyone. They also blow off a Jerk Jock's kneecaps so that he can never play football again.
  • The Cheerleader: Deirdre Bunson.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Brendan and Gary do this during their rampage.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Let's face it. There's no way that an angry high-schooler would contain himself to "friggin'" in his emails while talking about the bullies that tormented him.
  • High-School Dance: The scene of the shooting.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Brendan.
  • Jerk Jock: Sam Flach and the rest of the football team are portrayed as this. The book is fair enough to let them and the other popular kids present their side of the story... and when they do so, they only come off as jerkasses with a sense of entitlement.
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  • Loners Are Freaks: The book views the prevalence of this trope as a self-fulfilling prophecy — outcasts are treated as freaks by their classmates, which causes them to lash out violently, which causes people to view them as killers-in-waiting who should be kept separate from "normal" people, which only increases their isolation and causes them to lash out again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Brendan and Gary go into the shooting wearing ski masks in order to scare their victims.
  • Never My Fault: The few popular kids and jocks who are interviewed refuse to take responsibility for their bullying ways. One of them even suggests that Brendan was at fault for making himself a target for bullying.
  • Noodle Incident: The opening chapter mentions "what they did to that football player." Subverted later, when we find out exactly what they did to him.
  • Not So Different: The guidance counselor notes that, during the shooting, the only people who were clearly trying to kill anyone were the guys who beat Brendan into a coma as revenge for the shooting. It's worth noting that they were arrested and put on trial for it.
    • Then again, they were also the only ones shooting around, and they already crippled someone.
  • Prom Wrecker: Brendan and Gary shoot up the High-School Dance. They don't actually kill anybody, and likely never intended to in the first place, but they do cripple Sam and scare the rest of their classmates by Firing in the Air a Lot.
  • Scrapbook Story


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