February 3rd, 2017

REVIEW – A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

As soon as I saw this book I knew I had to read it. This is a book written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine High School shooters. She writes thoughtfully and passionately about her thoughts and feelings throughout the 16 years since the incident happened.

Summary from Goodreads:

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In”A Mother s Reckoning,” she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

After the incident Sue and her family were blamed for what Dylan did. As she says in the book, if she was an outsider then she would blame the family too. Dylan had a happy childhood and despite some minor problems in his teenage years, as far as the family were aware there was nothing for them to be concerned about.

This book is primarily a memoir however it is split into two parts – the first half describes with detail the day of the incident and works back through Dylan’s childhood. Sue doesn’t shy away from discussing some of the issues and fall outs her family had. Leading up to the day of the incident, Dylan does become quieter and spends more time on his computer. But his mother doesn’t see this as any source of concern as it is just stereotypical teenage behaviour. Among other things she assumes it’s nerves as Dylan is preparing to leave for college.

The second part of the book is still memoir but wrapped around every moment is insight into suicide research. Sue has now devoted her life to pushing for more research into helping people with mental illness (or brain illness as she refers to it) in order to prevent incidents such as these. She realises that signs she had ignored are actually signals of depression in teenagers but they’re not widely known and hard to distinguish between typical teenage behaviour. Even scarier still is that Dylan actively seemed to be getting better. But Sue has since learned that it’s common for people with depression, and even those planning suicide, to hide their true feelings and to even make future plans – such as going to college.

I had never read a lot of information on Columbine but hearing the thoughts of someone so close to one of the shooters, attempting to rationalise and understand what her son did is admirable. The work she has done since in aid of promoting research and encouraging more is fantastic. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out more about Columbine without the media sensationalism. Or just people (especially parents) who want to understand more about depression and other mental illness in young people.

Verdict: 4/5!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and WH Allen.

The book is published in the UK in paperback on 9th February by WH Allen, Ebury Publishing, part of Penguin Random House UK.

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