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Shooter by Walter Dean Myers is a very engrossing novel about a shooting on a high school campus. The novel is constructed as the "Threat Analysis Report" of the Harrison County School Safety Committee. As such it contains various documents, newspaper clippings, interviews, and a diary from which the reader must reconstruct the story.
Shooter is set at Madison High School, Harrison Co. A fatal shooting, also known as "the incident", has occurred. This is all the reader knows at the beginning of the novel. What actually occurred at Madison High School on the morning of April 22nd is left up to the reader to reconstruct from the variety of documents that compose the body of the novel. The first two items are interviews conducted with Cameron Porter, a 17-year old male and one of the few African Americans at the high school. Cameron is smart and upper class. His parents are self-absorbed in their focus on money and status. According to Cameron, his over-achieving father views him as failing to live up to his potential. When Cameron fails to make the basketball team, his father pulls strings and Cameron is placed on the team in lieu of a more skilled player. In retaliation the school's jocks", Cameron's source of friends, turn against him. Ostracized by the jocks, Cameron is an open to Len Gray's offer of friendship. Carla Evans, the second interviewee, is a 17-year old white female. Troubled, a loner, and a victim of abuse, Carla is open to Len's offer of friendship and membership in "Ordo Saggitae" a group formed by Len. Slowly, an image of Len is formed. Len Gray is a 16-year old loner. He is troubled with depression, very bright and focused on guns, shooting, and death. His intelligence and savvy aid him to gather a group of other loners, misfits, and victims of bullying into a loyal band of followers. Len tests their loyalty through ever increasing acts of vandalism and violence. Finally, the picture of Len Gray that ultimately emerges from his diary is one of a ticking time bomb waiting for just the right incident to trigger an explosion.
The structure of the book offers a unique perspective on school violence. Seen through the eyes of those involved, it relates the slow yet subtle way a natural leader can manipulate vulnerable young people. It demonstrates how the leader slowly, but steadily destroys their moral fiber. I found the interviews with Cameron particularly insightful. Interviewed by a psychologist, a FBI special agent, and a sheriff, Cameron alters his descriptions of events and even his revealed feelings. It is interesting to see how the manner of the interviewer impacted the interviewee's responses. While the style might have lead to a dry almost antiseptic text, Myers does an excellent job of pulling it off with great feeling.
Walter Dean Myers is the author of more than 75 books for young people. Myers was born in West Virginia but raised in Harlem. His autobiography which was written for young people is entitled, Bad Boy: a Memoir (2002). He has received many awards, including National Endowment of the Arts grant (1982 & 1989); the MacDowell Fellowship (1988); American Library Association (ALA) Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing for Young Adults (1994), and ALAN Award (1994). Many of his books have received awards including, Where Does the Day Go? (1968 Council on Interracial Books for Children Award); The Dancers (1972 Child Study Association of America's Children's Books of the Year); Fast Sam, Cool Clyde and Stuff (1975 ALA Notable Children's Books List); Ain't All for Nothin' (1978 ALA Notable Children's Books List, 1978 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); The Young Landlords (1980 Coretta Scott King Award, 1979 ALA Notable Children's Books List, 1979 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Legend of Tarik (1982 Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies from the National Council for Social Studies and the Children's Book Council, 1981 ALA Notable Children's Books List,1981 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Hoops (1994 Margaret A. Edwards Award, 1982 Edgar Allan Poe Award runner-up, 1982 ALA Notable Children's Books List, 1982 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Won't Know Til' I Get There (1982 Parents' Choice Foundation Award); Tales of a Dead King (1983 New Jersey Institute Technology Authors Award); The Outside Shot (1984 Parents' Choice Foundation Award); Motown (1985 Coretta Scott King Award); Didi (1985 Coretta Scott King Award); Adventure in Granada (1987 Child Study Association of America's Children's Books of the Year); Fallen Angels (1989 Coretta Scott King Award, 1988 Parents' Choice Foundation Award, 1988 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid (1988 ALA Notable Children's Books List); Scorpions (1989 Newbery Honor Book, 1988 ALA Notable Children's Books List, 1988 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Now Is Your Time (1992 Coretta Scott King Award,1992 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Somewhere in the Darkness (1993 Newbery Honor Book, 1993 Coretta Scott King Award,1993 ALA Notable Children's Books List, 1993 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List,1992 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award,); Malcolm X (1994 Coretta Scott King Award); Slam! 1997 Coretta Scott King Award; Harlem (1998 Caldecott Honor Book, 1998 Coretta Scott King Award, 1998 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); and Monster (1999 Michael L. Printz Award, 1999 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, and 1998 National Book Award Finalist). Mr. Myers lives in New Jersey with his family. Shooter (2004) is his latest novel.
Shooter by Walter Dean Myers is a suspense filled, well-written novel. I truly believe that this will be another award winner. The book is recommended for Grade 8 and up. Some descriptions of violence against people and animals may be too intense for sensitive readers. I highly recommend this book.
© 2004 Su Terry
Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.