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Young Adult Fiction Emotions & Feelings


by (author) Cate Carlyle

Common Deer Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2019
Emotions & Feelings, Friendship, Dating & Sex, Self-Mutilation, Death & Dying
Recommended Age
13 to 18
Recommended Grade
7 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price
    $11.95 USD

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Ginny's life comes to a screeching halt one fateful Monday morning when a shooter invades Southwestern High School. In lockdown with both the homeroom sub and her secret crush Owen badly wounded, Ginny finds herself teamed up with Kayla, one of the “Barbies.” They must try to keep their classmates alive amid terror and pain.

With the uncertainty of everyone making it out alive growing with every minute, there's only one thing Ginny knows for sure: no one is making it out unchanged.

About the author

Cate Carlyle began her career as a teacher and eventually transitioned to work in elementary school, academic and public libraries. Currently a curriculum resource coordinator and librarian at a university in Nova Scotia, Cate also reviews children's and young adult books for CM Magazine: Canadian Review of Materials. Cate's first book, "Your Passport to International Librarianship" chronicles her international volunteer work and she has also had her fictional short stories published with one shortlisted by the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia Nova Writes competition.

Cate Carlyle's profile page

Editorial Reviews

In #NotReadyToDie, Nova Scotia author Cate Carlyle has created a novel on a subject that too often is in the news: school shootings. The author manages to write a heartbreaking story, which is beautiful, poignant yet also sad with the action taking place in one single day. Told in the first person, this short narrative shares the story of a classroom of students, each with dreams, issues and personalities heading back to school after the weekend. The classroom is full of “typical” high school students: the jocks, the cheerleaders, the geeks, and those who merely just want to hide/exist. At the end of the novel, each character will no longer be the same person they were they got up that morning. Some will be heroes, some will become survivors, and all will discover how precious life truly is. The main character in the story is Ginny, a high school senior already dealing with her share of troubles and sadness. The loss of her father has Ginny rebellious and struggling to be strong, not always an easy task for a teen. Her only escape seems to be in the form of self mutilation. The story begins with Ginny hiding under her desk during homeroom period; a shooter has started a rampage at her school. As the active shooter is in the hallway, the class finally realizes this is real; it is not a drill. As the students come to this horrid realization, it becomes obvious that there are shooting victims in their midst. Ginny witnesses her “crush” Owen bleeding from a wound while huddling near his desk; a bullet has entered his leg. The substitute teacher, Miss Jones, who was the first to spring into action, quickly alerts the class, some of whom seem oblivious to what is happening around them; once the door is sealed, and her instructions to the students sink in, she suddenly collapses to the floor, alerting the class that she has been wounded. The narrative is told in first person by Ginny, who becomes the main voice of the story. Ginny is a very strong and determined young lady full of biases and misconceptions about many of her class-mates. For example, Ginny’s misconceptions about the cheerleaders that she calls the “Barbies” quickly deteriorate as Ginny bonds with one of the cheerleaders, a girl named Kayla, in an effort to survive. This new friendship helps with keeping the classroom of scared teens calm, hopeful and alive. The students/teens are experiencing a life-changing day, one that could haunt them forever. In order for the class to survive, they must put aside any differences or opinions about each other and work as a team to endure this terrifying moment with one group goal: to live. The students in Homeroom “A” are “not ready to die”; that becomes their mantra as the sounds of gunfire continue in the hallway. The description of the shootings is not overly gruesome or gory; there is the mention of blood, and open wounds, but nothing that would make the reader feel squeamish or uncomfortable. But the author also doesn’t minimize the tragedy or whitewash the severity of school shootings either. Cate Carlyle “tells it like it is”. School violence is a serious issue in today’s society, and Cate Carlyle’s young adult thriller #NotReadyToDie would be an excellent resource for classroom discussions around the topic. #NotReadyToDie may also provide some life lessons as well. Readers will quickly be immersed in Homeroom “A”, and at times the reality of the situation feels as though the reader is also on that floor under a desk. Although #NotReadyToDie’s main theme is school violence, this story is also an excellent coming-of-age novel exploring other themes teens today are coping with in the society in which they live on their journey to adulthood: forgiveness, healing, self-mutilation, coming out, etc. Each individual student story in #NotReadyToDie is authentic, the lessons and growth they discover are profound, but ultimately, the characters (and the readers) are changed people at the turning of the last page. #NotReadyToDie should be a required novel in every high school in the country (and public libraries too); it is well written, humbly heartrendering, and reflective of the world teens are living in today.

Carmelita Cechetto-Shea

Highly Recommended Excerpt: I fell forward as it left my hands. The petite, perky Barbie who’d been spying on me, Kara or Keira or Kayla from the desk beside me, had come over to help and was pulling the other end. We slid it over and locked the wheels so that its 15-foot expanse served as an extra layer of protection from the shooter or shooters in the hallway. I tilted my head at Barbie in silent thank you and then gestured over towards the door and the crumpled Miss Jones. I raised my eyebrows and motioned to her to follow me so we could check on the teacher. We scooted down the board and were startled by what we discovered. Miss Jones was keeled over sideways, clutching her stomach. Her eyes were closed and she was as still and pale as a porcelain doll. Barbie got to her before I did and grabbed Miss Jones’s hand to check for a pulse, giving me a thumbs up and a brief smile when she found one. Miss Jones was alive, a small mercy. Barbie motioned to me that we should drag Miss Jones back towards the windows and away from the hallway side of the room and she lifted her up under her armpits. I hoisted the teacher’s limp legs and we awkwardly carry-dragged her, laying her down under the windows, a river of red trailing behind us. I then clambered over to Jace’s desk and yanked his jean jacket down off of it while muttering “useless a-hole” under my breath. While his classmates were bleeding out, or frozen in terror, or trying to save their teacher, big tough Jace was playing some sort of pointless game on his cell and finishing off the last bite of a CLIF Bar. If we were in this for a long haul, I’d make sure Jace was the last one hauled out of this room.” Author Cate Carlyle takes her readers into Southwestern High School on a Monday morning when everything is locked down due to a shooter in the building. Amid the moments of tension and terror, Ginny tries to help her good friend Owen and the substitute teacher, Miss Jones. To her surprise, Kayla – one of the “barbies” – offers to help, and the two young women take control and do what they can to keep their classmates calm – and alive. Ginny is a strong and resourceful main character who overcomes her own fears and biases in order to help people around her. She is not a typical heroine by any means, and readers learn that her self-doubts and anxieties have led her to cut herself. But when she needs to be strong, Ginny steps forward and does what needs to be done. Although the novel is quite short and covers a time span of only a few hours, the tension is palpable in this young adult novel. Students hide under their desks for safety. Talking is in hushed tones only, and cell phone ringers are turned off. More than once in the novel, the students realize the shooter is right outside their door, and the tension and terror mount accordingly. Young adult readers will be kept on the edge of their seats and may well want to finish the entire gripping story in one sitting. Like the parents and community members waiting outside, readers are nervous and frightened until the situation is resolved. The obvious theme of #NotReadyToDie is school shooters and the violence in and around educational institutions. While Carlyle does not give readers particularly gruesome or gory descriptions, neither does she sugarcoat the situation. The threat of violence in schools is very real, and novels like this will enable students and teachers to discuss and address such problems. Ginny is a changed person by the end of the story, making this a true coming-of-age novel where the main character evolves into someone stronger and more self-assured. Carlyle asks readers how they would react in a similar crisis by showing students who find hidden reserves, students who break down and students who do their best to distract themselves. The terror of thinking death may be imminent reminds Ginny of conversations with her dad and his advice about making the most of every day and living life to the fullest. During the ordeal, Ginny makes a list of what she will try to accomplish if she survives. She shows readers the importance of atonement and attempting to make things right with the people around her as well as the necessity of forgiveness and moving on with life. By showing that her characters learn such valuable lessons, Carlyle has provided important teachings for her readers.

CM: Canadian Review of Materials, Volume XXV / Issue 41 - June 28 / 2019