Before It All Goes Wrong: Thematic Analysis of “Shooter”

One boy. One gun. That was all it took for the tragic events of April twenty- second. Author Walter Dean Myers explains all of the details leading up to the shooting incident in the novel Shooter. The story is made from mostly interviews with teenagers Cameron and Carla. Their former friend, Leonard (Len) Gray, shot and killed student Brad Williams (Len’s school bully) and later himself. The dramatic story teaches readers that they should say something about their feelings they feel strongly about before it’s too late.

From the start of the story, Cameron knew Len was different. When Cameron didn’t make the basketball tryouts, he hung his head down as he walked home. Len sensed how he felt, and walked home with him, teasing him all the way and making Cameron smile. “He kidded me a lot, but he had a way of almost putting you down but smiling as he did it” (16). Cameron wasn’t sure if Len was joking or not though when he asked him to vandalize a church. “I didn’t think it was going to matter much, so I went in with him… I didn’t feel good about it, but I got through it” (27-28). This was one of the first encounters of Cameron not protesting against Len. He stayed mute, and as a result gave Len the wrong idea of how he felt. Len had a misunderstanding about Cameron’s opinions on the church vandalizing since Cameron was too scared to say anything.However, there are many more controversial events coming up in the story.

When Len lead Cameron to a place he liked to spend time at, the shooting range, Cameron felt uncomfortable immediately. He didn’t feel too well holding a weapon that powerful in his hands, but still went with Len regularly. One day however, the men there thought it would be funny to shoot down a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. “ I didn’t like it… Maybe because I knew I was putting me being black on the sideline. Only I really couldn’t, you know… (My father) said that’s how business was done. He said people test you to see if you can stay focused on business…” (24-25). This passage shows that society is very biased. You want to fit in with what everyone else is doing. Most people don’t have the courage to stand out, but if you do, (just like Martin Luther King Jr.) it can really make a difference in your or someone else’s life. The more quiet Cameron stayed, the more serious the events became. Len’s other friend, Carla, decided to go to the shooting range with Cameron and Len one day. Cameron and Carla had no idea what Len had set up for them, but Len seemed very excited. They shot down some suspicious bags Len had set up, and realized later that they killed living turtles. Carla immediately got into a rage and left. Cameron’s unsettled feelings about what Len found “fun” started to grow. Cameron had numerous thoughts running through his head, but again kept his own opinions. Little did he know what Len would do later on. Cameron knew that he didn’t feel too pleasant holding a gun in the first place, but killing lives? This was taken to a whole new level. If Cameron had said something right there at the shooting range, it could have taken Len’s life to a whole new direction. Cameron had a really big influence on Len, and just saying something about his thoughts could impact his life.

The days passed by, and soon April twenty second came around the corner. Cameron had just walked into school early (at the request of Len), and noticed Len with a duffel bag. After some brief conversation, Cameron spots a gun and a lot of ammo. “That’s when I started panicking. I asked him what the rifle was for, and he said to hold off people until he had painted enough signs. I was still freaking out…” (135). Len even jokingly cocks the gun at Cameron, before handing him a gun too. Cameron, still dazed by everything happening, spots Carla in the school. Cameron finally realizes how serious this is becoming. He drags Carla to the side and tells her that she has to leave- NOW. Len spots them trying to escape and shoots at them. Cameron felt a surge of emotions coming in. Was it betrayal? Was it pittiness? Len had been one of his only friends for years now, and all this time Cameron had thought he understood Len. From all the unsettling feelings he’s felt in his heart, this was the absolute worst. Cameron realized what he should have done all these years now. From years of hiding, he pulls down the fire alarm. The police start coming, and it’s all going to end soon.

Cameron has been hiding from his fears of speaking his opinions for years now. At his final chance to stand up against Len, he finally does what is right. Even though Cameron is still in deep trouble, he does do an act that will save lives by pulling down that alarm. Everyone has a moment where they don’t do what they know is right. They hide, just like Cameron did from Len. However, realizing and fixing your mistakes before it’s too late can change lives.