Reading Questions for Columbine
About this book: On April 20, 1999, two boys left an indelible stamp on the American psyche. Their goal was simple: to blow up their school, Oklahoma City-style, and to leave "a lasting impression on the world." Their bombs failed, but the ensuing shooting defined a new era of school violence-irrevocably branding every subsequent shooting "another Columbine."
When we think of Columbine, we think of the Trench Coat Mafia; we think of Cassie Bernall, the girl we thought professed her faith before she was shot; and we think of the boy pulling himself out of a school window-the whole world was watching him. Now, in a riveting piece of journalism nearly ten years in the making, comes the story none of us knew. In this revelatory book, Dave Cullen has delivered a profile of teenage killers that goes to the heart of psychopathology. He lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris and the quavering, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who went to the prom three days earlier and obsessed about love in his journal.
The result is an astonishing account of two good students with lots of friends, who were secretly stockpiling a basement cache of weapons, recording their raging hatred, and manipulating every adult who got in their way. They left signs everywhere, described by Cullen with a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys' tapes and diaries, he gives the first complete account of the Columbine tragedy.
1. Do you remember where you were on April 20, 1999? How did you hear about the Columbine massacre? What were your initial thoughts?
2. Some readers have referred to Columbine as a "non-fiction novel." Do you think this description fits?
3. How does the author build and maintain suspense and mystery in the book? How does he deal with the fact that readers may know—or think they know—the outcomes or details of the book's events?
4. What do you make of the relationship between Eric and Dylan? Did this relationship remain consistent throughout the book? If there were shifts in their roles, can you pinpoint when and why this happened?
5. Why is it important that books like Columbine be written and read? Who should read this book?
6. Do you think this book glorifies Eric and Dylan and perpetuates the legend that they wanted to leave behind?
7. As you read the book, what surprises did you encounter? Why do you think you hadn't known about them before?
8. What if you were able to meet the killers' parents. What would you want them to know? What if you could meet another character in the book. Who would you want to meet and what would you say to them?
9. Which, if any, of the book's characters do you consider to be heroes? Which were scapegoats? Were there more than two people responsible for the killings?