MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book reviews of How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister

How to Be Safe

by Tom McAllister

How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister X
How to Be Safe by Tom McAllister
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Apr 2018, 240 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

We Need to Talk about Kevin meets Dept. of Speculation in a novel about one woman's furious grappling with the repercussions of small-town tragedy.

FORMER TEACHER HAD MOTIVE. Recently suspended for a so-called outburst, high school English teacher Anna Crawford is stewing over the injustice at home when she is shocked to see herself named on television as a suspect in a shooting at the school where she works. Though she is quickly exonerated, and the actual teenage murderer identified, her life is nevertheless held up for relentless scrutiny and judgment as this quiet town descends into media mania.

Gun sales skyrocket, victims are transformed into martyrs, and the rules of public mourning are ruthlessly enforced. Anna decides to wholeheartedly reject the culpability she's somehow been assigned, and the rampant sexism that comes with it, both in person and online. A piercing feminist howl written in trenchant prose, How to Be Safe is a compulsively readable, darkly funny exposé of the hypocrisy that ensues when illusions of peace are shattered.

PROLOGUE

With some time to kill, the shooter parks his car outside One Brother's Pizza and he thinks: It's just a slice, a slice won't slow me down. He thinks: A slice may even be good for me. He thinks: This is a choice, I'm making a choice and nobody in the world has any say over whether or not I make this choice.

Last night, he forgot to eat. Even after a full month of planning, there were loose ends to tie up, there were final considerations. He hadn't wanted to leave a note, but while he lay in bed not sleeping there were so many words in his mind desperate to escape and he could feel them crawling like cockroaches out of his mouth and so he decided to record them in his notebook. Later they will find his notebook and call it a manifesto. The media will try to analyze it and explain it, but they are dull and they cannot be trusted to understand.

Next door to One Brother's is a small insurance agency with an oversized window, in which a pretty ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The novel is a scathing satire that pulls no punches in its examination of American life today. It shows no mercy, not to politicians–local and national–to religious groups, gun activists, the mainstream media, Internet trolls or even to men who, with the exception of Anna's brother and boyfriend, are excoriated throughout. At times, hope for the human race runs pretty thin, yet McAllister finds optimism at the end of Anna's year. How To Be Safe is a damning, yet also beautifully written book and Anna is a character to root for despite–and because of–her many flaws...continued

Full Review (520 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though Anna's voice is strong, the novel falters in its depiction of the tragedy's fallout, often electing to skim the surface instead of going deep.

Library Journal
Starred Review. A blistering, Swiftian portrait of a nation that has lost its moral center, this book is a compelling from start to finish. Enthusiastically recommended for fans of literary fiction, psychological drama, and dystopian fiction

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Intensely smart. Sharply written.

Author Blurb Wiley Cash, author of The Last Ballad
How to be Safe is a blistering indictment of America's insanity: our devotion to guns, our addiction to masculinity, our obsession with muscling our way toward an exceptionalism built upon our own inflated sense of self. Tom McAllister is an exceptionally talented novelist: funny, biting, and bold. I'd be inclined to call him a satirist if not for the fact that every word in this novel is true.

Author Blurb Amber Sparks, author of The Unfinished World
This is one of those books you don't know if you can read, and then after you don't know how you lived in a world without it... I can't believe this book was written by a man - but I'm so happy Tom McAllister wrote it.

Author Blurb Katherine Hill, author of The Violet Hour
Tom McAllister's searing novel won't make you feel safe, but it will almost certainly make you feel connected to everyone who knows that everything must change.

Author Blurb Stewart O'Nan, author of The Speed Queen
Vicious, hilarious, shocking and sad, How to Be Safe is biting political satire that levels its targets, soft and hard. Tom McAllister's vision of a violent, pious, hysterical America is worthy of Denis Johnson, Margaret Atwood and, yes, Mark Twain.

Reader Reviews

Michael Haughton

How to Be Safe
I will honestly state firstly that my opinion on this novel is in no way aimed at the writer as any personal attack, But merely to express my own closely held observations. I will go on to add this brief summary I got from reading it, then I will ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Survivor's Guilt

In How To Be Safe, Tom McAllister charts a year in the life of his main character Anna and the rest of the community of Seldom Falls, in the aftermath of a mass school shooting carried out by a student. Anna, a teacher who was fired from the school, struggles to cope with many aspects of the tragedy, not least her feelings of guilt that she was not there when it happened.

The concept of survivor guilt was first identified among holocaust survivors, individuals who had lost family and friends in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. It is recognized as afflicting people who survive traumatic events – wars and conflicts, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and school shootings, but can also be experienced by others such as first...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked How to Be Safe, try these:

  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing jacket

    An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

    by Hank Green

    Published 2019

    About this book

    A sweeping, cinematic tale about a young woman who becomes an overnight celebrity before realizing she's part of something bigger, and stranger, than anyone could have possibly imagined.

  • The Spectators jacket

    The Spectators

    by Jennifer duBois

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    A shocking crime triggers a media firestorm for a controversial talk show host in this provocative novel - a story of redemption, a nostalgic portrait of New York City, and a searing indictment of our culture of spectacle.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Island of Sea Women
    by Lisa See
    Lisa See's latest novel, The Island of Sea Women, follows the lives of Mi-ja and Young-sook, two ...
  • Book Jacket: Race Against Time
    Race Against Time
    by Jerry Mitchell
    Jerry Mitchell spent nearly three decades trailing cold cases from the Civil Rights Movement. As a ...
  • Book Jacket: The Resisters
    The Resisters
    by Gish Jen
    Gish Jen's The Resisters depicts a future United States, dubbed AutoAmerica, where climate change ...
  • Book Jacket: The Mercies
    The Mercies
    by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
    It's 1617 and a violent storm has claimed the lives of 40 fishermen off the coast of Vardø, a ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    And They Called It Camelot
    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    An unforgettable portrait of American legend Jackie O.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Mountains Sing
    by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

    An enveloping, multigenerational tale set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien

The classic, ground-breaking meditation on war and the redemptive power of storytelling.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Mostly Dead Things

Mostly Dead Things
by Kristen Arnett

"Hilarious, deeply morbid, and full of heart."
- BuzzFeed

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

T Die I C

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.