graphic memoir · graphic nonfiction · nonfiction

Book Review: Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely

I usually wait until I have a few graphic novels under my belt and then do a mass review, but this book deserves a review all its own.

I learned about Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022) from, I think, Twitter a few weeks ago, and it immediately went onto my TBR. My library was in the process of getting a copy, and I got the email that it was ready for me fairly quickly. I knew this would be an important book, and it’s exactly as powerful as I expected it would be.

Trigger warnings exist here for, obviously, mass shootings, and a suicide attempt.

In this stunning debut graphic novel, Kindra Neely describes her account of the 2015 Umpqua Community College Shooting. She was a student there at the time, just a regular, average young adult, when her life changed entirely. Eight students and a professor were killed, and the shooter committed suicide.

Kindra and her friends weren’t wounded – not bodily, anyway. That doesn’t mean they weren’t affected. Kindra finds herself struggling with the symptoms of PTSD, having difficulty being in public, affected by panic attacks, depression, and numbness. And what seems like almost the greatest insult is that instead of being allowed to heal, she’s forced to return to the incident again and again as nearly every day, news alerts appear on her phone, informing her of the newest mass shooting, of the latest creation of more victims, more deaths, more people grappling with how to move on from this kind of life-changing terror.

It’s an ongoing process, and Kindra makes many efforts to heal. It’s not easy, though: therapy isn’t always easy to come by in this country (cost and availability are a massive problem), and it’s really difficult to talk to even our closest friends about emotional struggles. And collectively, our country has decided that owning guns is more important than human lives, or the ability to live our lives without fearing death at every turn, so the fear of this happening again never really goes away, something Ms. Neely addresses when she brings up the fact that someone who survived one mass shooting was killed in another here in the US. Utterly horrifying.

But this book talks about it. This is an in-your-face, colorful, art-filled book that talks about the horror that our indifference to mass shootings has wrought. It shows in full color what the aftermath looks like years out. It demands to be heard, and I think this is going to be one of the most important books of the year. This book should be on every library shelf; it should be accessible to every student out there. It should be in the faces of every weak-willed member of Congress who laugh awkwardly at questions about why they continue to force us to live like this.

Kindra Neely is amazing and so brave to use her voice and her talent to bring her pain to the forefront. I’m beyond impressed, and grateful that she’s taking this stand, when she shouldn’t have to.

Read this book as soon as you can, and start demanding better for all of us. We all deserve it.

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