June 03, 2016


by Caroline Pignat
Razorbill Canada
320 pp.
Ages 12+
May 2016
Reviewed from advance reader’s copy

A whole lot can happen in one hour.  Ask those who tell Shooter’s story: Alice, Isabelle, Hogan, Noah, and Xander.  From the initial school lockdown at St. Francis Xavier High School which brings the five students barricaded together in a boys’ washroom to its dramatic, life-altering climax as the clock reads down to 00:00:00, Shooter is an unforgettable, heart-stopping story of heroes, written, read and made.
"This is real life. Not everything has a story."
Alice smiles. "But every person does."

I guess she’s right.  We all have one–even if it’s one we’d rather forget. (pg. 86)
There’s Hogan King, a hulking senior notorious for what he did to his older brother and who feels he is deservingly beyond redemption.  There’s Alice, another senior, who is an incredible writer–accepted to UBC’s prestigious Creative Writing Program–who prefers her position of invisibility which allows her to read life and care for her older autistic brother Noah. Uber-popular, egocentric and high-achieving Student Council President and go-to person for everything St. F-X, Isabelle Parks has her own issues, revealed in text messages with BFF Bri who is locked down in the office. And finally, there is the socially awkward Xander Watt, shooter of film images, who writes about himself as,
I think too much sometimes,
blurt the wrong things often, and
feel confused, always.”
(pg. 48)
How these seeemingly incongruent characters come together, and together they do come, in a complex plot of action, angst, and deliverance makes Shooter the extraordinary story that it is.  And story-telling, or rather writing, is a key foundation for Shooter.  With several of the students classmates in Writer’s Craft, it’s not surprising that elements of writing–plot, hero’s journey, characters’ fatal flaws, resolution–become part of the story. (Caroline Pignat is herself a high-school teacher of Writer’s Craft.  Lucky students.)

I can’t possibly reveal the itricacies of the story and the role of each character in its resolution.  But suffice it to say, Caroline Pignat’s brilliant writing immerses the reader in the terror of a school in genuine lockdown and the anxiety of relating to those whose differences make you uncomfortable.  Beyond the drama, and there is much, Shooter is a story of empowerment, taken and accepted and relinquished, and a formidable tale told by one of Canada’s greatest writers.

1 comment:

  1. Just an outstanding read! Here's hoping it is on the Red Maple 2016-2017 list!