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Columbine High School shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold weren’t goth kids who played more Doom than their classmates. But after news outlets reported they were, teen goths and gamers felt the backlash for years. As police and journalists have rushed to explain other unthinkable massacres, heavy metal music, paganism, Satanism, occult practices and role-playing games have unfairly gotten caught in the crossfire.

Adolescents’ brains may still be developing, but they recognize the rich benefits of pastimes adults have deemed dangerous. The Columbine Effect is filled with teens’ stories of self-discovery and healing – and the research to back them up. It reveals how we arrived at such gross misunderstandings of common but controversial interests. The Columbine Effect is the book that will make us stop blaming teen violence on the wrong things – and help us understand how Slayer, Satanism and Grand Theft Auto can be a healthy part of growing up.


"Beth Winegarner's The Columbine Effect provides the secret code to the uncharted and conflicted land of teenage identity. In her keen, clear, evocative prose, she helps demystify some of the rather frightening teen rites of passage, shining a bright, incisive light into violent video games, heavy-metal music, goth culture, the occult and role-playing games to show that they can important developmental stages in forging character. This is destined to become a must-read for any worried parent of a teenager." –Jaan Uhelszki, music journalist and co-founder of Creem

"'Worst-First' thinking is when we jump to the very worst-case scenario first, which is something our culture does a lot when it comes to teen trends. The Columbine Effect puts the brake on this tendency by reminding us that many of parents' worst fears – from video games to heavy-metal music – are a lot less scary than the media makes them out to be." –Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids