If I Don't Make It, I Love You by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman - Book Review

Monday, July 8, 2019



"A harrowing collection of sixty narratives—covering over fifty years of shootings in America—written by those most directly affected by school shootings: the survivors."


My morbid interest in school shootings began back when I was in elementary school. I was around eleven years old when I was kicked out of my 4th-grade classroom for talking about Columbine. I do not know why the tragic event fascinated me so much. As I got older, I began reading every book and watching every movie or documentary on the subject I could find. This would lead to me actually developing plans of writing a book myself. However, what most people do not understand is how truly overwhelming these events are (both in how horrible they are and quantity). Everyone has heard of Columbine, Parkland, and Virginia Tech, but the majority of these events only get noticed locally. If it doesn’t have something that makes it stand out or a high kill count, it just isn’t worth talking about in mainstream media.

School shootings did not start in the ’90s. It doesn’t happen because someone enjoys violent games or listens to Marilyn Manson. The shooters are not always the victims of bullying or suffering from depression. Americans have spent so much time trying to come up with a formula or something to put all the blame on. If we could just figure it out and create a quick (preferably cheap) fix, we could all just move on with our lives. Yet, after all this time, after so many deaths, no answers have been found. In the end, I think that on-going question of “why” is what fueled most of my own personal interest. I was convinced, like many others, that I could find out why this keeps happening. I was determined to be the one to discover the magical formula that led to someone performing these horrific acts.

Then Sandy Hook happened. Newtown destroyed me. For months after, I had nightmares of tiny, bloody bodies stacked in classrooms. This is when I stopped caring about “why” and just became furious it was even happening at all. Surely, this would be the tragedy that forced change...but then nothing happened. I stopped all research and stopped following any additional incidents. It was just too much for me and my mental health could no longer handle it. I do occasionally still read books on the topic, but only if it offers something new, which is why I chose to read the 500+ page If I Don’t Make It, I Love You.

This book, edited by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman features essays from individuals affected by school shootings. Survivors share the long-lasting effects they are now dealing with, families detail their struggles and anger after losing loved ones, and even Doctors share their point of view. Working chronologically from Santa Fe High School back to the Tower shooting at the University of Texas in the ’60s, it includes information not only about the popular tragedies, but several of the lesser known ones as well. It is an incredibly difficult, yet necessary read. There is so much pain in the pages of this book, which is to be expected, but I also found a growing bit of hope developing mainly around the survivors of Parkland. It is sad, but I think many have passed on the torch of trying to change things to these kids. One only hopes they are able to do better than those before them.

image showing quote from the book
- Loren Kleinman, Editor
I really liked how the book was put together. Each chapter represents a different tragedy, and at the beginning of each, we hear a bit from one of the editors. The names of the shooters are rarely mentioned, and it in no way glorifies anything they did. I also really appreciated the mentions of incidents prior to the University of Texas Tower Shooting (which many consider to be the first mass killing at a school). Archer and Kleinman did their research (and shared the toll it took on them). The only issue I did have with this book was how many of the “essays” were excerpts from other books. It doesn’t take away anything...I am just too tempted now to read all of these books, and as mentioned earlier, I do not think that would be good for me. As heavy as the subject matter is, I think this should be required reading for many in our society (especially politicians).

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★☆

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*Book summary is from Netgalley
*Book cover image is from the official website
*Quote featured in the first image: Jami Amo
*Quote featured in the second image: Loren Kleinman


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