I recently read Dave Cullen’s Columbine. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this book, and I am going to attempt to relay them coherently. I saw this while I was perusing the True Crime section at Half Price Books. I remembered hearing that it was one of the most accurate, haunting, accounts of what occurred at Columbine High School, and being that I had just finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63, I wanted something a bit more non-fiction. So I took it home, grabbed a Dr. Pepper, and dove in.
First things first, this book will not be for sensitive people. It goes into all the details of the Columbine crime, and when I say all, I mean all the details. It describes the scene of the murders, the families reactions, the killers motive, and the aftermath.This book is not a light read by any means, so I do want to preface that by saying, this will not be easy to read.
One of the reasons I was interested in reading this was because there is so much information on Columbine, but it’s all spread out between theories, and conspiracies, and very few accurate accounts. I was around eight years old when Columbine occurred, so I had very little working knowledge of the event. This book encompasses all the things: all the theories that were running rampant then, all the rumors, and all of the information the media portrayed as “truths.” The question of “how much can we actually trust the media” is so relevant right now, and this book proves how relevant it was during Columbine as well. Many of the facts were misconstrued simply because the media chose to release information, knowing that it was not completely true or accurate. Which led to hold-ups within the case and the aftermath.
This book also dives quite a bit into who the killers were. I, like most I think, remembered the killer’s as being “outcasts” “loners” “severely depressed.” While one of the killers was severely mentally ill, and both struggled with bouts of depression, both boys were mostly well-liked, before Columbine occurred. A little on the shy side, but both did well in school, had jobs, and had families who disciplined and loved them. Contrary to everything that was portrayed of the killers, they were not angry loners who targeted the preps and jocks. Their crime was not a target on specific groups. It was random: one boy used the crime to be remembered, to make a statement; and one used it for a reason to commit suicide. To finally be able to end his life. As a skeptic of the media in general, I have gained a whole new level of skepticism after reading this. At several points, I found myself angry/sad/shocked by the events that took place, but also by the media’s response and the lack of sensitivity they gave.
In Columbine, the victims are described in detail. The places they were found, how they died and who they were. He discusses the families and the people who knew the victims, and how they were affected. A few of the victims were in rehab and physical therapy for their injuries, and for a few, the book shows their success in moving on. Sadly, not everyone is able to handle the aftermath of Columbine and suicide becomes an issue within the community. Along with the victims families, the families of the killers is discussed in detail. How their lives changed, how the community reacted to them, and how the media handled them.
Dave Cullen does a fantastic job of removing his voice in this book, and letting the facts tell the story. No embellishing, just what happened, and why, based on the knowledge he obtained on the killers. Highly recommend if you are looking to gain a better understanding on Columbine.