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Comments for The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: 03/12/15

cover art

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson was released to correspond with the fiftieth anniversary of the event. Aimed at a young adult audience, it has two parts: a brief biography of Kennedy and then a very thorough blue print of the assassination and immediate aftermath.

Kennedy is the last United States president to have been assassinated. The others are Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. More recently there was an attempt on Reagan. Put another way, one in every eleven presidencies have ended with an assassination. If ill health in brought into play, the rate of death among presidents is even higher. But Lincoln and Kennedy of the four get the most attention and their deaths are often treated as more tragic than the other two.

John F. Kennedy (and to a lesser extent, the rest of the Kennedy family) is introduced in the first part of the book. This biography takes up approximately a third of the page count, but it sets the wrong tone — one that would have resonated with YA readers when those readers were part of the Baby Boom generation. It tries to set up Kennedy as a tragic hero, destined both to be president and to be a martyr. Kennedy was born into privilege. Sure, being Catholic was counted against him at the time but he was not an everyman who rose power and greatness.

The Camelot crap is VERY STALE marketing PR. Look at it this way: Kennedy died TEN YEARS before Iw as born. He is not (and never was) as emotionally relevant to my generation and we were only a decade or so removed from his presidency. Now take todays YA readership. They are more like twenty or thirty years removed. Setting JFK up as a manifest hero doesn't come across as a convincing argument. All it does is get int he way of an otherwise fascinating breakdown of a security hole that could have been prevented with a little foresight.

So, unless you want to wallow in a sappy introduction, skip to the well written second part. It avoids all the nonsense of conspiracy theories and shows clearly how one homegrown gun freak who wanted to make a name for himself was able to by being in the right place at the right time. The assassination was a perfect storm of security holes combined with one person with just enough rifle practice to pull off a lucky pair of shots.

Three stars

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