Book Review: 'Parkland'

Mar 4, 2019

Dave Cullen produced a masterpiece of investigative journalism with his 2009 book, Columbine, which took him 10 years and chronicled the events surrounding the mass murder at Columbine High School in Colorado.

His new book, Parkland, details another horrific school shooting. 

This one happened only a year ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida. But this time, Cullen focuses not on the shooting itself – or the shooter, whom he doesn’t even name – but on the remarkable teen survivors who pushed back against the NRA and launched the grassroots March for Our Lives movement.

Cullen’s book takes readers along on the students’ nine-month journey – from the day of the shooting, to a nationwide school walkout, to a student-led demonstration in Washington, D.C., to a “Road to Change” bus tour that led up to the midterm elections. We meet David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, who quickly emerged as the faces of the movement. We meet student activists from Chicago and elsewhere who felt buoyed by the Parkland kids’ call to action. And we get to know Cullen himself, who unwillingly became “the mass murder guy,” fielding calls from media after each new tragedy.

“Parkland changed everything – for the survivors, for the nation, and definitely for me,” Cullen writes. “There are strains of sadness woven into this story, but this is not an account of grief. These kids chose a story of hope.”

Cullen’s book deftly illustrates the students’ persistence, as they balance the demands of a political movement with the day-to-day struggles of high school, including AP exams and spring musicals. What it lacks, however, is the hindsight that allowed the author, in Columbine, to refute myths and add valuable new information to the national conversation around school shootings.

Even so, Parkland is a story of student action amid adult hand-wringing, and that alone makes it worth the read.