No Heroes by Anna Seidl, translated by Siobhan Parkinson.
Book Review by Emily Elphinstone
It’s not often that openly weeping by chapter three can be classed as an entirely good thing; but No Heroes has exactly this effect.
In the aftermath of a high-school shooting; once the television crews have gone home, and the school has reopened, the survivors are left to make sense of what has happened. And as protagonist Miriam struggles to come to terms with the massacre that killed 7 of her schoolmates, including boyfriend Toby, she discovers just how much an experience like this can change things.
Written in the first person, the reader is drawn immediately in to Miriam’s innermost thoughts and feelings; even when the overwhelming situation leaves her numb to anything at all. This visceral inner monologue, while Miriam is utterly isolated from those around her who struggle to understand; reminds one of the true power of books, which can draw the reader directly inside a situation, and a person.
What makes the book all the more interesting is the characterisation, which avoids black and white stereotypes in favour of shades of grey. Though he was certainly guilty of a terrible crime, gunman Mathias Staudt is in some ways as much of a victim as those he shot; and his victims aren’t perfect blameless martyrs. Instead, they are utterly human; all playing a part in the events that led up to this fateful moment.
Written by German teenager Anna Seidl, who was herself 16 at the time of writing; the book has been masterfully translated for the first time by Siobhán Parkinson. Creating an accessible and surprisingly relatable story, No Heroes evokes a vivid picture of life as a teenager; delving into issues of family, bullying, grief, and relationships. Gritty, heartbreaking, but ultimately life-affirming; No Heroes doesn’t sugar coat the hardships. Instead it reminds us that somehow: ‘Life keeps on going. And at some stage, when we feel better, we join in again.’