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This Is Not a Drill

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  829 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD

When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them--a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering fr
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 25th 2012 by Nancy Paulsen Books
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School Shooting Fiction
31st out of 50 books — 196 voters
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Made me think
1st out of 3 books — 2 voters

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With only a mere 224 pages, I was surprised by how much power this short little novel emitted. This Is Not a Drill takes us into the lives of two teenage kids who are tutoring first graders, when an angry, unstable post-military father arrives and takes the class hostage.

This situation is a real tragedy that we sadly see happen in our world much too often. School shootings, school bombings; any school disaster is a parent's worst fear. To get a call that your first grader is in a classroom with
This review originally appeared at

Dear This is Not a Drill,

This is a tough letter to write, and I’m sorry not to be doing this in person, except, you know, you’re a book, so I thought this might be a nicer let down than just saying this to your cover. Maybe.

I’ve been wanting to say this since a few pages in, but you seem like a nice book, and I thought that maybe, if I hung in there long enough, things might change and perhaps I’d feel that spark. Not everything can
Tee loves Kyle Jacobson
This Is Not A Drill is one of those reads that will stay with you for years to come. While reading this ARC I kept thinking about The Columbine Shooting and The Arkansas School shooting. School shootings are becoming an everyday occurrence and it scares how we send our kids to school not knowing if someone has decided today is the day they are going to go to school and shot it up.

In this case Brian Stutts is a soldier who has just come back from Iraq and his family has fallen apart. His wife is

This is Not a Drill by Bec McDowell is set the small town of Hensonville. Seventeen year olds, Emery and Jake, have volunteered at the local primary school and are assisting with a lesson one morning, supervising eighteen first grade children, along with the teacher, Mrs Campbell. Emery and Jake used to date but have put aside their differences and work well together in the classroom. That morning they are interrupted by a father of one of the boys in the class. He wants to take his son with
A multi-faceted read.

When I first picked up this proof, I didn't realise it was a YA novel. I brought it home and my 14 year old son honed in on it. (The other proofs I had piled on the shelf all seem to contain vampires or werewolves which are not his thing.) He devoured this book in a 3 hour sitting and proceeded to stroke it like he was Golem protecting his precious. Which is why, although I am in the middle of a few other reads, I put them down to read this one. And I am glad I did.

Haley Petcher
You’d think signing up to tutor a classroom of first-grade kids would be a fun exchange for a morning of high school. That’s what high school seniors Emery and Jake think—until Brian Stutts, a soldier with PTSD, comes in with a gun. Stutts wants to check his son out of school, but he’s on the blocked list. Frustrated with his lot, Stutts holes up in the classroom with Emery, Jake, and the kids as hostages. Emery and Jake, who recently went through a messy break-up, must come together again and l ...more
***Spoiler Warning***

I had the feeling this was going to be an interesting book and I love it when I'm right.
Besides a few details the reactions from both hostages and hostage taker are realistic. And those children.. poor children! They acted so brave the whole time. And Jake and Emery impressed me. How they dealt with the situation -being still teenagers themselves- was courageous. They ignored their own fears and the kids stayed their number one priority the whole time.

With exception of the
Jake and Emery are high school students assisting a group of first graders in their lessons one day when something happens which will change their lives and the lives of those around them forever. They are interrupted by the father of one of the boys in the class who demands to see his son; when he is refused he turns violent, pulling a gun and holding the class hostage. Right from the opening sentence I knew this was going to be a tense read and I was not disappointed. However, what I was not p ...more
Ms. Yingling
Emery and Jake have had their romantic ups and downs, but are able to work together in Mrs. Campbell's first French grade class as helpers. Their skills dealing with small children are severely tested when the fathers of one of the boys shows up and demands to take his son. Not being content to work matters out in the office, he comes back, shoots a security guard, and holds the entire classroom hostage. It slowly comes to light that Brian Stutts fought in Iraq, and suffered so badly from PTSD t ...more
Samantha Hendzell

Emery and Jake have an emotional past but have been spending a couple hours a week together at the local elementary school teaching French to first graders. Everything seems to be going along like normal one morning when all of a sudden everything goes terribly wrong. An ex-soldier comes in to get his son and is enraged when the school won't let him. His wife has turned everyone against him! Instead Mr. Stutts, flask in hand, barricades himself in the classroom full of 18 children, their teache
Kai (Amaterasu Reads)
Review posted at Amaterasu Reads

It started off as a typical YA book, with Emery, a girl suffering from POTS, trying to convince herself that she has gotten over the boy she loved, who also happens to be her partner for teaching children. Then there's this boy, Jake, the mayor's son, who was still reeling from the loss of his mother, immature, too friendly, and with poor choice of friends, became a bad boy overnight and ruined whatever it was he and Emery had. Both had their issues and challenges

Brian Strutts wants to take his son Patrick home from school, but he doesn't want to deal with school administration and he doesn't want to deal with the fact his wife has told the administration Brain's not to be around Patrick. Rather than go through the channels he needs to, Strutts wanders into Patrick's classroom and takes it hostage.

In the classroom that day tutoring are high schoolers Emery and Jake. Neither them nor the teacher are prepared to be hostages nor are they prepared to be
Megan Carroll
Beck McDowell's latest novel is an intense, thrilling, fast-paced ride through a day filled with unexpected events. This Is Not a Drill follows high school students Emery and Jake as they go to a local elementary school for a weekly tutoring session. The day this novel takes place turns out to be quite different when everyone in the classroom is taken hostage by an angry parent. Jake and Emery have to find a way to hold themselves and each other together to keep the children in the room safe. Mc ...more
Reviewed at:

What an intense book! I read it in one sitting and couldn't put it down. From page one, Beck McDowell reels you in keeps you hooked for the next 200 pages.

Emery and Jake are high school students volunteering at an elementary school 3 days a week. They are also ex- girlfriend/boyfriend so the interaction is a bit awkward. But none of this matters when a gun wielding vet with PTSD invades the classroom demanding custody of his son. Now, they ha
"This Is Not A Drill" is a really good book. My sister won this book in a giveaway and I couldn't wait to read it. It only took me a couple of days to read it & I absolutely loved it! Beck McDowell did a great job writing the story and creating the characters. I can relate to this book since I am a teacher. While reading the story all I could think is, what if something like this happened to me & my kids in the preschool. The author did a great job and I hope to read more of her books. I ...more
It was not fast-paced and lacked tension. There are other books about school shootings and hostages that are much better. Nineteen Minutes, for example.

So I guess I have to say 'ho-hum'. There was nothing that I hated about it. But I'm sure I'll have forgotten the book completely by next week.

The thing I did find fun was the 'southern accent'. Emery uses expressions I can't imagine a west coast girl using. 'bless her heart'--huh? Added some flavor to the story and made you see the kids as somet
Karen Bartlett
Making my way through the pile of YA fiction I have to read for Year 8 classes and sometimes a little gem comes along.... this is it.

This is a powerful, fast-paced little thriller about an Iraqi War Veteran suffering from PTSD who tries to take his young son from his first-grade class one morning.
Senior students, Emery and Jake, (who used to be a couple but have split up) have volunteered to tutor the class in French 3 mornings a week, and it's during one of these lessons that veteran Brian Stut
Ben Hajciar
May 6th, 2014 Mrs. Andersen

Title: This Is Not A Drill

Student Reviewer: Ben


This Is Not A Drill is based upon two high school students, Emery and Jake, who visit an elementary school once a week to tutor first graders a foreign language, which is French. Come to find out, one of the students fathers is going through a divorce, he served in Iraq and has lost some friends due to war. Because of this he is suffering from PTSD. The father goes on a rampage and takes the class hostage. Jake

“I just wanted to teach little kids some French. I didn’t sign on for dealing with a psycho.”

Emery was just an eighteen year old that just wanted to teach little kids French not to get into something dangerous and famished but everything went wrong. But the worst part was being partnered with Jake after what he did to her, she has despised him since then. But for this event they will have to put that aside and work together to keep the children sa
Stephanie A.
I couldn't bring myself to focus all that much on the boy's perspective, but I thought this offered a very good vicarious walk-through of a day trapped at gunpoint with little kids in an elementary school classroom.
As a teacher, this book was intense. HARD to read. A gunman storming my classroom is actually one of my greatest fears. I'm still not sure WHY I chose to read this book. But I'm glad I did.

The plot of this book takes off - you're literally knee-deep in action 4 pages into the book. The characters are well-developed (thanks to the balance of present action and exposition) and easy to care about - even Mr. Stutts. The plot is fast-paced, with a conflict that occurs right away and action that keeps
Lizzie Upchurch
I liked this book , a lot. I think it shows that even after a soldier gets back from the war, he is not the same as he used to be, but we should still love them and help them.
Wow this story was well written.

What happens when a father comes back from war with PTSS and snaps? What happens when he snaps in front off a kinder-garden class with a gun, two teens and a teacher ready to pass out.

And the two teens happen to be exes not speaking to each to other for a long time.

You get a fantastic read: This is not a drill

Ohh applause for the author for writing about POTS a syndrome not known by most doctors which my daughter and I happen to have.

It really was about a 4.5 but you can't do half ratings. GREAT BOOK! Really makes you think about who the person is who is holding the gun, and what put them in that place. Towards the end I couldn't put it down, I had to continue reading to find out what was going to happen next. MY FAVORITE QUOTE FROM THE BOOK: " You can't truly see what's good in your life without a reminder of how easily you could lose it. And I'm not going to spend one more minute letting yesterday's anger rob me of today's ...more
Antonio L
Would you be able to take the pressure? Could you stay together and not break? Well for teachers assistances Emery and Jake are trying there best not to break down. Their classroom has just been taken hostage by one of the kids dad, Brian Stutts. He is trying to take his son from school when the security guard shows up and Brian's reaction was to pull his gun on him. Because he got home form Iraq and is having mental issues. Now there are dozens of police surrounding the school trying to make hi ...more
Lisa (A Life Bound By Books)
Wow! Not a story I'll be forgetting any time soon. Full review to follow.
Once a couple, Emery and Jake teach an elementary school class for extra credit. When a former soldier, suffering from PTSD, takes the class hostage while trying to connect with his son, the two high schoolers are forced to work together if they want to protect the children as well as each other from injury. Readers get to know the teens, view their breakup, relationship, and blossoming trust as the tale, told from the alternating view points of the two high schoolers, unfolds. This is a highly ...more
Danielle Vucko
This was an excellent book that brought up some tough issues such as PTSD and school shootings. It comes down to two high school students trying to talk down a man that was creating a hostage situation. This opens your eyes to a whole new prespective of what the man faced in Iraq and it also gives you more insight on PTSD. This is a very scary story that keeps your attention and wanting to know what happen next. I would highly recommend this book for everyone to read. This is a book that I could ...more
Reyna ♥
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This Is Not a Drill is a heartbreaking story of a soldier home from war but not quite all there. It’s an unflinching look at PTSD and the ravages of war. This is a heavier YA book but one that I am so glad I read.

Emery and Jake used to be more than friends but now they can barely stand to be the same room together. Emery is a studious girl who knows exactly what she wants in life and what she needs to do to get it. Jake is the exact opposite. No one ever saw them lasting as a couple but even bro
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Pillow Academy Bo...: This is Not a Drill Booktalk 1 4 Oct 29, 2014 09:31AM  
  • Personal Effects
  • The Right and the Real
  • Smashed
  • Send Me a Sign
  • Blind Spot
  • The Reluctant Hallelujah
  • Burning Blue
  • Out of Reach
  • Dancing with Molly
  • I Swear
  • Cadillac Chronicles
  • The Opposite of Hallelujah
  • Bruised
  • Consequences
  • In Too Deep
  • The Summer of May
  • The Almost Truth
  • Live Through This
Beck McDowell is the author of THIS IS NOT A DRILL, Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin, Fall '12 - recently chosen by the American Library Association as a 2013 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers. This YA fiction tells the story of Emery and Jake, who must protect the kindergartners they're tutoring when Brian Stutts, an Iraq vet suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, pulls a gun when he's n ...more
More about Beck McDowell...
Last Bus Out This Is Not A Drill

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