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Project X

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  936 ratings  ·  140 reviews
In the wilderness of junior high, Edwin Hanratty is at the bottom of the food chain. His teachers find him a nuisance. His fellow students consider him prey. And although his parents are not oblivious to his troubles, they can't quite bring themselves to fathom the ruthless forces that demoralize him daily.

Sharing in these schoolyard indignities is his only friend, Flake.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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James (JD) Dittes There is a movie called Project X about a party, but this book is completely different. It is about two eighth-grade boys who plan and execute a…moreThere is a movie called Project X about a party, but this book is completely different. It is about two eighth-grade boys who plan and execute a school shooting.(less)

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3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  936 ratings  ·  140 reviews

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S. Wilson
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In the aftermath of the Columbine High School Shootings in 1999, countless reporters and commentators repeated similar versions of the same phrase over and over again: "People are wondering how something like this could happen."

Jim Shepard knows.

Project X is one of the few books that has ever honestly attempted to get into the minds of people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, or the other teenager gunmen who later patterned themselves after the Columbine incident.

Most seem to take comfort in e
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic book. I've never read a book that captivated me in such a way as this. It gripped me from the start and kept me interested throughout. Topics dealt with in this book are very touchy ones and really relevant in today's world. The feeling of sorrow and despair really affected me. A few days after finishing the book I still could not get it off my mind. It will mess with your head and probably make you thankful for what you have. While the main character is just a misunderstood ...more
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

i'm really digging Shepard's short stories, so i picked this up from the library. he creates great characters, great scenes, and great dialog, which all make for a quick read. i want to say his writing makes an enjoyable read, but with such serious subject matter, i won't. i couldn't put it down, but just like in the way you can't look away from the car crash.

in the end, maybe it's just weird to read about kids who feel alienated and decide the answer is to blow up the world. there were s
Shannon Fay
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: un-hauled
Actual rating: 2.5 stars (maybe even 3, but a LOW 3, like a meh, don't really care, fuck it, I feel bad, 3)
So far I'm finding the writing a little challenging.
It's very simplistic and disjointed. Cuts from being in lunch to being in class to at home to with his friend and all happens so fast with no transitioning, that I can't always follow it. I have trouble telling exactly where we are in the story.
I was talking to my sister about this recently, and she goes: "that sounds kind of bad." And I
James Jessup
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was extremely fascinating and a very good book to read. This book gives you different perspectives and shows what it's like to live in someone else's shoes. The author really developed his characters, the setting, and the plot very nicely. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for really good quick read.
Jan 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Project-X Book Review.
Kai Lammers

During our fiction unit I read the book ,”project-X.” In the book, the main character is Edwin Hanratty. Edwin is a troubled child, his grades are terrible and he gets in fights with kids every single day. But his friend Flake is even more troubled, he hates everything and everyone. He wishes all the jocks and knuckle heads at his school would just die, and that is exactly what he plans to do. A giant terrorist attack at their school, killing everybody. Revenge i
Jun 09, 2010 rated it liked it
3.0 out of 5 stars X (Cross) this off your list..., January 16, 2009

This review is from: Project X: A Novel (Paperback)

I read quite a few of the reviews before I started the book. Now, a few hours later, I've finished it and am left wondering -- what was the point of this novel? I mistakenly thought it was YA literature, but have since disavowed that notion. I can't imagine what a teenager or an adult would learn from reading the book. It's purpose definitely wasn't to entertain, or to even del
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
Three words (or four): provocative, disturbing, puzzling.

Loved this book.

Project X is about a familiar topic in contemporary literature--a school shooting. The story is told by Edwin Henratty, for whom the word 'outcast' is an understatement. He's a middle schooler with a laundry list of issues: he's socially awkward, always in fights, always in trouble, isolated, and picked on (by both teachers and students), with parents who try but fail miserably to understand his problems. His only friend i
Apr 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. Shepard really set himself a challenge here, not just making the perpetrators of school shootings seem like kids with psychology we are capable of accessing but making violence of such scale seem like a plausible solution to "normal" kids. And he gets junior high just right. He made me remember—unpleasantly. I remember being suddenly forced into new social situations for which I felt unprepared, making my best guess at reasonable behavior, and being laughed at as an idiot. Hell, I ...more
Beth Yost
May 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
I read this with the hopes of finding a great recommendation for my freshmen for a realistic fiction. I was intrigued by the content when reading about it. It's a young adult book told from the point of view of a troubled teen that plans to shoot up his school. Some may find that offensive but I think intense issues are only dealt with when addressed so I was curious as to how Shepard would tell the story. I hoped it would be better and at times it felt a bit like an after-school special, but I ...more
Jun 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read this novel in a day because I couldn't put it down! Shepard chronicles a few months in the life of eighth grader Edwin Hanratty who, with his friend Flake, plots a Columbine H.S.-style attack on their school. The writer succeeds in presenting a believable, sympathetic character and the circumstances and adolescent mindset that could lead to violent revenge, despite coming from a caring home. Edwin is an unforgettable character who deserves as wide an audience as Holden Caulfield, but is u ...more
May 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I tried really hard to get into this book, but I just couldn't. The language felt like it was trying too hard to be cool, trying to be something a junior high school student would say rather than something a junior high school would actually say. And for the life of me, I could not sympathize or like the two young boys that were the main characters. They were assholes and I understood why no one liked them. And I definitely didn't care enough about them to read a novel about them. If you want an ...more
Laura Aranda
This book left me incredibly disturbed. I understand the author's aim was to delve into the insanity of young mass shooters, and to reveal the unfortunate consequences that drive young men to violence. But the characters seemed too juvenile, and there is a lack of character development even through the carrying out of their "plans." While the severity of bullying is addressed, I don't believe this novel helps the discussion of preventing mass shootings in schools.
May 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
Now this may sound like I'm totally heartless, but I could just not connect to the characters. I couldn't feel sorry for them or wish them anything better. To me, this book was pretty boring and unrealistic and by the end I no longer really cared what happened to the two boys. And what is there to say about the ending? Just another shooting.... this one just didn't sink in with me. :(
Rase McCray
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Project X is about a school shooting -- or is it? And that final question is what makes this book both provocatively disturbing and so likely to be ill-received (as evidenced by the many negative reviews on this site).

The premise: Project X is the story of two high school boys who get more than their share of adolescent difficulties. They're weird, isolated, picked on, perhaps struggling with depression, and see all their avenues for a better existence closed off again and again. They want thing
Hannah Brostrom
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book had gritty realism, terrific characters, and a plot so unsettling the novel was impossible to put down.

All the events scattered throughout the novel, although random, have a fascinating way of fitting right into place with the main story. Everything incapsulates a tremendously real life of a troubled teenage boy with fierce accuracy.

The way this fragile topic was not treaded lightly made the novel just that more amazing. Extremely relevant and the ending, although expected, finds a wa
John Addiego
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
This is a heartbreaking story, and Shepard captures the emotional turmoil, the iconoclastic teen humor, and the voices of these characters so well. I loved his Kiss of the Wolf novel and wasn't sure I was so engaged by this one until I got a ways in and could feel the horror looming on the horizon. I kept wanting to rescue this kid and hoping for his salvation. Shepard has a truly empathetic ear for these kids.
Michele Ferrari
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An intense and compelling exploration of the inner life of an adolescent boy planning a school shooting. The complexities of Edwin's experience allow the reader to identify and empathize with him.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
"nothing i wanted to be is left."
Anila Jacob
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
it was unexpected. That's all I have to say.
Dec 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew Foley
Feb 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
Project X, written by Jim Shepard tells the story of an eighth grade boy and his only friend as they struggle to deal with the social anxieties of junior high. The main character Edwin and his lone companion Flake make a plan to help them put an end to their constant verbal and physical abuse from their peers. The book follows Edwin through his daily activities and meetings with Flake as they begin to plan their revenge on those who as they say, "either don't know us, or don't want to know us." ...more
Apr 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is about a school shooting from the perspective of one of the shooters. Rather than deal with the the aftermath and the losses suffered, it deals with what lead up to the event and everything that the perpetrators did and didn’t suffer.

The characters are all well crafted and realistic. I can sympathize with but not like the narrator. He’s a teenager trying to figure out his place in a world that seems to be against him. He recognizes that he is at the bottom of the social ladder, but s
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing

When I was assigned to independently read a book of my own choice, I wanted to find a story that dealt with the theme of alienation, much like the previous two books I have read, “Rule of the Bone” and “The Outsiders.” With the simple Google search of “Novels related to Rule of the Bone,” I was quick to find “Project X” by author Jim Shepard.

As a whole, “Project X” was very well written. There were several key factors which allowed Shepard to be successful, such as his ability to write an engag
Oct 25, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aj Sterkel
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This review is going to be short because I can’t say much about this book without spoiling it.

Edwin is a depressed and socially awkward eighth grader. His parents try to help him adjust to school, but the only person he can relate to is his friend, Flake. Unfortunately, Flake is just as depressed and socially awkward as Edwin. Together, the boys plan a school shooting to get revenge on the kids who bully them.

This book is a bit like watching a slow-motion train wreck. You know that it won’t have
May 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008-misses
I've avoided reviewing this book because of the extremely negative discussion I had about it with a colleague, which left an awful taste in my mouth--some admixture of anger, resentment, and bile. Now I can't separate my feelings about the book from that conversation. Maybe I should instead just touch on the conversation?

In my MFA program, in the fiction part at least, there exists what I would call a Boy's Club. The members of said club would vehemently deny that they are a part of it, of cours
James (JD) Dittes
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, young-adult
As a high school creative writing teacher, this was a really tough read, which proves how good the book really is. As a father of a son entering the eighth grade, it was utterly agonizing.

Edwin Hanratty would seem to come from a "good" family, but as eighth grade begins, he just can't seem to 'get it together.' He and his friend, Flake, occupy the lowest rungs of the social ladder at their junior high school and every day his tally of "good" and "bad" events seems to end up with more negatives.

Jun 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book was an Alex Awards winner in 2005. It was very disturbing and inappropriate on many levels. The book is written in first person, narrated by an 8th grader named Edwin. Edwin is miserably depressed and just can’t seem to fit in. He refuses to join extra curricular activities and his BFF Roddy and him are forever getting into fistfights with other kids. Both Edwin and Roddy don’t feel they are accepted by their peers and seem to not care about anyone, including themselves. This book cont ...more
Catherine Austen
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen-novels
This may be one of the saddest novels I’ve ever read. It's beautifully written and compassionate - more compassionate than I'd ever want to write about people planning mass murder. The main character comes alive and his story is vividly portrayed (though it seems a few grades older than it is meant to be). I especially liked the touches with the nasty adults. (I think adults are rarely sufficiently blamed for making student life miserable.) I loved it as a novel, as a literary piece. I especiall ...more
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Jim Shepard is the author of seven novels, including most recently The Book of Aron, which won the Sophie Brody Medal for Achievement in Jewish Literature from the American Library Association and the PEN/New England Award for fiction, and five story collections, including his new collection, The World To Come. Five of his short stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories, two for ...more
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