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How to Be Safe

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,341 ratings  ·  303 reviews
Former Teacher Had Motive. Recently suspended for a so-called outburst, high school English teacher Anna Crawford is stewing over the injustice at home when she is shocked to see herself named on television as a suspect in a shooting at the school where she works. Though she is quickly exonerated, and the actual teenage murderer identified, her life is nevertheless held up ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by Liveright
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Erin Glover No. It's about what happens when there is no gun control.

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Diane S ☔
Apr 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Another timely read taken right out of our news headlines, a school shooting and a teacher, Anna, who though she had nothing to do with the shooting, is said to have a motive. After that many don't care if she is guilty or not, she has been indicted by the news networks. This reads like everything we see on our news channels, the talking heads and their suppositions, the rerunning of footage, the thoughts about the shooter, etc. The victims are portrayed, could something they had done in their p ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I'm sorta biased on this one.
Nov 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
I think this was supposed to be droll and ironic but I honestly just found it obnoxious. From the fact that every paragraph ends in some kind of pithy aphorism of the author's making, Tom McAllister clearly thinks he has something to say in this novel. Unfortunately that 'something' rarely amounted to anything more than "The idea of hiding underground for a few years until everything got better was appealing. That's why groundhogs looked so happy."

The central concept is a salient one and one tha
Ron Charles
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tom McAllister’s "How to Be Safe" is as startling as the sonic crack of a bullet. The story’s volatile tone tears through the despair of our era’s devotion to guns. In the opening pages, a young man kills 19 people and wounds 45 at a Pennsylvania high school. McAllister, the nonfiction editor of Barrelhouse magazine, constructs this preface entirely from the breathless cliches of “the playbook of mass murder” we all know so well: “They will call him a loner and they will quote former teachers sa ...more
Lee Klein
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some books emerge from the author's experience, some seem like they're in conversation with other books, but this one seems to have been formed by the author's experience of the internet, particularly Twitter, specifically how that fragmented social-media monster processes those wholly American unnatural disasters known as school shootings. Do not look to this book for solace or support if you're distraught about the intermittently occurring atrocities enabled by the NRA and right-winger, second ...more
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I’ve been in a book much so that I read only one (stellar) book last month and decided to take a reading break.
Let me just say this: I’m on vacation. This book may well be brilliant, and it is certainly timely, but I do not like satire. Ever. And definitely not while the sun is shining. Too dark & satire-y for me. 2 stars
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I listened to this in audio because of its inclusion on the Tournament of Books longlist. I am an avid listener of the author's podcast, Book Fight, but had not read his books. I will go back and read his previous novel now!

Anna is a professor who is mistakenly accused of a mass shooting and this sends her down a path riddled by PTSD, invasive media, and gun-hoarding end-times cults. Anna is incredibly unlikeable and she doesn't seem to understand how to move through life. It was unclear to me a
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This was a satirical critique of the current gun and social media culture. What freedoms are we willing to give up to ensure our safety or get a popular online presence? While I thought the concept was great, I wasn’t overly impressed with the execution-this read like a long monologue about gun violence and the ridiculous lengths people go to on social media. There were some strange magical realism elements mixed in, but overall the point is well-made that the freedom to own guns leads to us giv ...more
Jessica Sullivan
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This sharp, dry satire about the aftermath of a school shooting says so much about contemporary America—from our disturbing gun culture to toxic masculinity to the increasing reality of never feeling safe. It’s not happy, optimistic or redemptive, but neither is our current reality. It’ll resonate with anyone who is fed up with gun violence and the meaningless thoughts and prayers that follow.

The plot centers around Anna, a teacher at the school, who is briefly suspected of the shooting. It foll
Alison Hardtmann
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How To Be Safe by Tom McAllister is told from the point of view of a high school English teacher, a woman who was not at the school the day the shooting happened. With the murderer dead, there's a search for possible accomplices and Anna is briefly investigated by the FBI and hounded by the media.

As time moves on, Anna looks around at how the shooting has changed the town for good, and how easily these school shootings, and all the mass shootings, are quickly moved past, a few more guns are sold
Patrick Brown
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fiction is not generally known for its immediate timeliness. Novels take a while to write, so you end up with a round of novels about Vietnam in 2010, etc. But this book feels like it was written in a flash over the last few weeks. It wasn't, I'm sure, but it feels that way because its two central themes -- gun violence and sexual harassment -- have been and continue to be as central to the American zeitgeist as water is to the ocean.

Anyway, I tore through this book in just a few days, and foun
Erin Glover
McAllister pulls us right into his dark story as we follow a school shooter in the moments before he kills. He has time to eat pizza before it is fourth period, lunch time, at the safe high school in the former friendliest town in America. After the shooting, people will study his journals, his music, and his web browsing history. The coroner will do an autopsy. They’ll find nothing. These things “will not show the way people can be ruined just by existing in the world. Shell-shocked acquaintanc ...more
Jennifer Tam
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and provoking read that I couldn't put down
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary-lit
The writing is really strong and interesting in this short novel, but the mixture of tones and genres was too distracting to ignore. One scene will be serious, realistic, and poignant, and then it will be followed by a satirical scene full of fantasy and dark humor. I was never quite sure if I was supposed to be taking the plight of the main character seriously or not, and that kept taking me out of the story.
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful observations set against a too-typical event nowadays. Anna is a brief suspect in a school shooting and from her POV she ruminates on being safe in this day and age - she also explores her choices and relationships with well-meaning folks around her.

Access to review copy provided by publisher.
Denver Public Library
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, dodie
I picked up this title at a library conference after hearing the author speak, which notably was shortly after the Parkland high school shootings. This book takes place in the aftermath of a school shooting and hit close to home. A teacher is suddenly thrust into the media spotlight when it is suspected that she was the shooter; the suspicion is short-lived, though the impact is long-lasting. McAllister has a sure hold on our society's views on guns, bullying and sexism. He nails our fears and i ...more
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Got an ARC. Thanks Norton!

I've read a couple of novels about school shootings so I wasn't sure I wanted another but it gave a new perspective. From a woman who was originally a suspect and suffering from depression and alcoholism. She is such a flawed protagonist but is hyper-aware of the town's reaction to the tragedy and is not immune to also giving into fear.

Beautifully written! Will watch Tom McAllister!
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tob, 2018
2.5 stars
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
the title and the cover of this book caught my eye at the library and i'm really glad i picked this one up.

it's a darkly humorous book that explores fear, and whether or not it's justified and how much is too much. it involves paranoia and people being frozen in fear because they don't know when the next bad thing will happen. it's about trying to live a comfortable life when you don't feel comfortable. there's so much in here.

this would make a very good book club book because there's a lot to
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book takes place in the aftermath of a school shooting and hits so close to home. Tom has his fingers on the vein of society, maybe even deeper than that. All I know is as a woman in this culture of ours he nailed my fears, my insecurities, and some of the most terrifying interactions I have experienced in regards to harassment. On top of that our devotion to guns; how we interpret violence. So much of what I read has actually happened. This book may bring controversy, but its a needed one ...more
Mary  Allen
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had won this book thru Goodreads, I took a chance and decided to read it right away instead of adding to my list. I am happy I did, good story and well written a GOODREAD
Beth Dean
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
How to Be Safe begins with a school shooting.

At first, it seems that that is where the book will go. It will be a plot-driven look at the shooter, the victims, and the events of the shooting. But instead, we follow Anna, a teacher who was recently fired.

Anna is quickly cleared of wrongdoing, but there is still plenty wrong in her life.

Meanwhile, the town collectively loses their cool over the school shooting. Mob mentality takes precedence as people find more and more outlandish solutions to t
Brandi D'angelo
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
An engaging story, especially in light of all the school shootings. Told from the viewpoint of a suspended teacher (an odd choice, but like much of the book, it oddly works,) the book begins with the thoughts and actions of a boy on the way to commit a school shooting. It covers the array of victims, the teacher’s thoughts, and addresses how the community goes on living. The format is choppy, with lots of side rants on unrelated topics like confession booths, psychics, sex trafficking, pet store ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
When a school shooting rocks a safe small Midwestern town, suspended high school teacher Anna Crawford is temporarily a suspect. What follows on the pages of this novel is Anna both unraveling and contemplating the concept of safety in our modern age. Unfortunately timely given the events of the last week, this book also deals head on--but artfully--with issues of gun control, mental health, sexism, and the phenomenon of entitled, angry boys committing unspeakable violence. With a deeply flawed ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love first-person narrators who are quirky, unreliable, and perhaps even mentally ill. Anna Crawford is just such a narrator. She’s a high school English teacher who is suspended from her job just prior to a deadly school shooting event. She is immediately identified as a suspect but only very briefly since the actual shooter (a current student) is quickly found. All this happens in the first few pages of the book, and the rest of the novel moves forward from there. The real substance of the b ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This satire is a primal scream over the US failure to enact even the most basic national gun control laws. The slow-motion scream comes from the mouth of a cynical, funny, abrasive, loopy, and massively depressed woman named Anna Crawford. She reminded me of the title character in Stephen Florida. My copy of the book is bristling with sticky notes marking so many moments of deadpan humor. Sample: the name of her small Pennsylvania town is “Seldom Falls” – part Norman Rockwell, part vaudeville pu ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Funny, wise, imaginative, and fierce. Anna Crawford is a character I'll remember for a long time: a worldly, bitter, savvy sense of humor floating on top of an ocean of empathy and pain and longing.
May 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get into this book, no matter how many times I tried. The protagonist/narrator was dull, and a lot of the book came off as preaching instead of narrating and explaining different point of views through characterization.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Intense! I couldn't put it down.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this... but listening to the audiobook gummed up a few details. Overall my impression is truly “WHOA”— I was quite moved by the intensity & breadth of topics covered, starting with a mass shooting at a school seen through the eyes of Anna Crawford, a former teacher of the school who is initially a person of interest but quickly dismissed, and delving into: privacy rights as the government finds new ways to infringe in order to catch more criminals, gun rights and how we demand sch ...more
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Prize Readers: 2019 TOB Longlist: How To Be Safe 3 20 Nov 16, 2018 06:25PM  

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Tom McAllister is the author of the novels "How to Be Safe" and "The Young Widower's Handbook," as well as the memoir "Bury Me in My Jersey." He is the non-fiction editor of Barrelhouse magazine and the co-host of the weekly Book Fight! podcast. His shorter work has appeared in a number of places, including Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Collagist, Hobart, The Rumpus, and The Millions. He ...more

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“Ban everything besides guns. Ban public space. Ban buildings. Ban trigger fingers. Ban anger. Ban flesh and organs and blood loss. Ban women and children who are easy targets and ban men who like to shoot at targets. Ban physics, and ban velocity. Ban human interaction.” 1 likes
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