This is Not a Drill
Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD. (Penguin, Oct. 25, 2012)
2013 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers
When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them--a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he's denied access to his son because of a custody battle.
The children's fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake's alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.
"McDowell balances the gunman's plight against his son's shame, fear, and divided loyalties. Written in a format that will appeal to reluctant readers, this first novel is an excellent choice for sparking classroom discussion." (Gr 7 Up) School Library Journal
“ . . .the setup is irresistible, and McDowell’s authentic handling of the confusion and fright of the class of first-graders lends the story a constant undertone of tension.” Booklist
" . . . with authentic and distinct narrative voices and a talent for unspooling suspense, McDowell establishes herself as a writer to watch." Publisher's Weekly
"Fast-paced, suspenseful thriller...The hours-long standoff comes to a dramatic and violent climax... A vividly depicted and gripping tragedy." Kirkus Reviews
"The dialogue is authentic, the characters well portrayed, the flashbacks fascinating and the plot thrilling. Great for reluctant readers and non-stop readers alike." The National Examiner
"This Is Not a Drill grabs you at the very start. This is a well-imagined and tragic story with surprising characters and an unforgettable climax. It's hard to believe this was written by a first-time novelist." - Todd Strasser , author of Give a Boy a Gun
"A gripping, compulsively readable thriller that feels so authentic, it could be ripped straight from the headlines. . . .the two voices in McDowell's book are the beating heart of this smashing debut. You will remember Jake and Emery for a long time to come." R.A. Nelson - author of Teach Me
See Beck's Goodreads page for reviews.
Last Bus Out
The true story of Courtney Miles, who stole a school bus and drove over 300 New Orleans people to safety after Hurricane Katrina.
Sick with worry over his missing grandmother, Courtney charged past a police roadblock and was nearly arrested by a National Guardsman. He'd vowed never to suffer the fate of his mother, who was repeatedly jailed for selling drugs.
At seven he woke up with a gun in his face on Christmas Eve. At thirteen he witnessed the murder of a man three feet away from him. As a high school junior he lived alone in an empty house without electricity or water. Courted by gangs who knew he was hungry, “Streets,” as he was nicknamed for his solitary life on the streets, lived apart and kept his record clean – until the day he risked his freedom to save his neighbors.
For more info visit www.lastbusout.com.
"Not only is the book extremely well written but, it is entertaining in a way that is educational. Last Bus Out is truly inspirational and moving." Day, Paperback Dolls
"Courtney Miles is a true hero and his story touched my heart. I cried in many parts as I read through it. I actually had a hard time putting it down and read the book in two sittings. His is a story of courage and shows there are still people out there with good hearts who do care. Courtney Miles is one of those people and I recommend you read his story. It's an amazing one." Simply Stacie
"This is no ordinary Hurricane Katrina story. I recommend this book to everyone, but especially teens." Sharel E. Gordon-Love, APOOO BookClub
"The author provides a detailed diary of not only Courtney's actions, but his emotions as well. At times I found myself reading with my mouth open. This book gave me the emotional attachment that I had lacked thus far regarding that dreadful day and the effects that followed. I feel like I have established a bond with this human hero." Kisha - FLAVOR Book Club