Picks and Pans Review: A Tragedy Reconsidered

updated 04/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/20/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

COLUMBINE
by Dave Cullen |

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REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

People PICK

NON-FICTION
Almost 10 years ago—on April 20, 1999—18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold walked into Colorado's Columbine High School and massacred 13 people and then themselves. How can evil of that magnitude ever be understood? In this riveting assessment, Dave Cullen, one of the first reporters on the scene, reveals that the initial conclusions—the boys were Goth outcasts; they'd been bullied and targeted jocks for revenge—were wrong. Poring over videos, journals, 25,000 pages of evidence and his own interviews, Cullen creates intimate new portraits of the killers, who were in fact both smart and popular. But Eric was also a psychopath (born, not made, Cullen implies) bent on annihilating the human race; his rage fueled Dylan, suicidally depressed over romantic troubles, into action. No less gripping are Cullen's examination of alleged police fumbles and his shattering portrayals of the survivors. Like Capote's In Cold Blood, this tour de force gets below the who and what of a horrifying incident to lay bare the devastating why.

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