Sunday, May 22, 2022

This is Not a Drill

Holt, K.A. This is Not a Drill
May 17th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this novel in texts and message boards (which I fear may make me attribute actions to the wrong character), Ava, Char, and Elena all attend Lila O'Lowry Middle school, and start a regular day. Ava, whose parents are separating, doesn't want her friend Char to tell their friend Elena, even though Elena's parents are also divorced. Her phone battery is very low, even though she regularly ignores the school updates, claiming they are mainly about the lunch menu, which is heavy on fruit cocktail. At lunch, Ava isn't feeling well, and spends a long time in the bathroom. When the school goes into lockdown, everyone panics. Ava is stuck in the bathroom, Elena is in the cafeteria with the lunch ladies, and Char doesn't answer her phone for a bit. When they go into lockdown, Ava texts both of her parents, who panic, drive to school, can't get in, and tell her to "ping" them occasionally. When she leaves the bathroom, it's hard to find a room to get into, but she ends up in a room with a number of 6th graders (tater tots), but no teacher. When Char's brother Diego starts having an asthma attack, she leaves the room to try to find an inhaler. There is a school chat, and students find out about this and put an inhaler out into the hallway. Ava steps on the first one, but does eventually find one and gets back to the room. The students all seem to know the rules of lockdown (be quiet, stay out of right, don't open the doors), but as time goes on, students start to panic more and more. When a man starts banging on the doors and seems to be shouting Ava's name, everyone's stress levels rise. It turns out to be someone looking for a teacher, Ada Abernathy, and the tensions go even higher. What's going on? Why are they on lockdown? And do the recently escaped therapy llamas in the town have anything to do with it?
Strengths: This book certainly capitalizes on tween anxiety surrounding phones. There's a low battery, texting from a flip phone, and a phone taken away by a teacher. I liked the message about having an asthma inhaler with you at all times if you need one. Ava's distress about her parents' separation is a good inclusion, and it was nice to see that they were still able to support her together. Lockdown drills are certainly a concern for students, and this was mostly realistically done. It was good that no one was injured, and there is some injection of levity with the LOL updates (the name of the middle school) and the updates about the escaped llamas. 
Weaknesses: I found this extremely hard to follow, and even after going back and trying to follow text threads, and still not entirely sure why we didn't hear from Char for a bit. This might have been easier to piece together with a paper book, and younger readers will be more likely to find this format understandable.
What I really think: Students should not have cell phones on them during the school day, and should definitely not text parents during lockdowns of fire evacuations. (We just had to take the entire school next door to the high school gym because of a gas leak in my building, and I tried to dissuade students from unnecessarily alarming their parents.) Having the chat board just raised their stress levels. Oh, wait. This should be what I think about the BOOK. Even though our drills are really low key,  I can see this being popular with my students. It's the same sort of effect that reading ghost stories or murder mysteries has; your own life doesn't seem as stressful. 

Our students NEVER open the doors. Our administrators come around with a key and announce themselves before opening the door. We were once in lockdown because of an armed robbery at a local jewelry store half a mile from school, and I had 60 students in my tiny back room for an hour. No one spoke. No issues with behavior at all. 
 Ms. Yingling

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