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  • No Heroes
  • No Heroes
    • No Heroes
    • No Heroes

    No Heroes

    By Anna Seidl

    Quick Overview

    A gripping fictional account of a school shooting and its terrible aftermath, written by young German author Anna Seidl – who was just 16 when she wrote the novel.
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    'You can smell fear. You can get hold of it. But nobody dares to touch it.
    We all hold our breath.'

    The story of a school shooting and its awful aftermath; a psychologically convincing study of grief, loss and guilt and their effects on young lives.

     

    A phenomenon in its native Germany, No Heroes has now been translated into English by one of Ireland’s best-known writers for children and young people, Siobhán Parkinson.

    No Heroes is narrated by Miriam, who begins the story smitten by her handsome boyfriend, popular with her friends, and, like the rest of her class, thoughtless in her treatment of social outcast Matthias.

    Until Matthias goes berserk with a gun.

    No Heroes is the story of the ensuing grief and guilt, and about the efforts by Miriam and those around her to rebuild some kind of life – and in doing so to come to some kind of understanding about what happened on that horrific day.

     

    ‘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… 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.’ –  No More Workhorse

    ‘An intense and challenging story… The strength of the story lies in this portrayal of a student who grew so resentful of others that he was driven to a suicidal assault on his peers. A great and brave debut novel.’ – Irish Examiner

    ‘A read with universal themes for young people.’ – Woman’s Way Magazine

    CHAPTER 1

    You can smell fear. You can get hold of it. But nobody dares to touch it. We all hold our breath.

    It's under us. We can hear the shots. They're loud. Way too loud for my world of school and fun. And I don't know who it is. My best friend Joanne and I had just been told to go down to the ground floor by the teacher, and suddenly everyone is running. And then: boom. And again: boom.

    Of course I know what gunshot sounds like. I am just as addicted to watching telly as the rest of the school. But it's different in real life. It's the same sound, only ten thousand times louder.

    First, we just stop, Joanne and I. Then we start running too. Everyone upstairs is running. The teachers, the caretaker, the students. I can see Philip Schwarz, who is a year ahead of me. I used to fancy him a bit a few years back. He made an impression on me, always so perfect. I can see Lisa Schmidt too. I don't know anything about her. They're running as well.

    I see all this, but I don't take it in. Nobody has really taken anything in. How could we? We're just kids, after all, whether we're thirteen or thirty years old. Because we've never experienced anything like this. I'll tell you a secret. My first thought was just, Shit, I have to get out of here. I thought only of myself. Not of my teachers or schoolmates. Not even of Joanne. My first thought was for myself. And to be honest, I know it was exactly the same for everyone else. There are no heroes here. Because it's not a movie. It's reality, pure and simple. Joanne, Philip and I hide in the boys' toilet. Philip doesn't seem all that great now. He's just a bundle of nerves, cowering on the floor, breathing rapidly.

    Joanne and I are bundles of nerves too. My hands are wet with sweat. My whole body is shaking. And there is pure fear strangling me, bearing down on my heart as if to stop it beating. That's how I know it's real. I'm not ready to die. I'm only fifteen, I've only had my first boyfriend for five months, I'm only in ninth grade. There are so many things that I want to do. And dying is not one of them!

    Another shot sends me reeling. A thud on the floor, a shout, footsteps. He's getting closer.

    It's weird. You'd think he'd be running, in a hurry. But it's not like that. You can hear his shoes, soft and rhythmic on the floor. Almost as if he were on his way to the gym, not shooting open the gates of heaven for terrified people. Or the gates of hell. Or the gates of nothingness.

    Maybe you can imagine what it's like to cower on the cold floor of a stinking toilet. Maybe you can feel the way the cold grips your body, making it shiver uncontrollably. Maybe you can hear the silence, the deathly silence, when everyone just holds their breath and hopes it's someone else who gets it and that they themselves are safe. Maybe you really can. Or maybe not.

    I thought I could. But I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was going to find out how things really are. I used to think you couldn't smell fear.

    'Miriam,' Joanne whispers. Just my name. She gestures towards one of the cubicles with her head. She wants us to hide in there. The footsteps are getting louder. He's quite close.

    I surprise myself by nodding. I didn't think I was capable of nodding. I touch Philip's arm, but his whole body is shuddering and he shakes my hand off. Joanne and I stare at each other for a moment.

    Her eyes reflect my feelings: shock, incomprehension, fear. And I realise it is not going to end well. Not for all of us. That he's already shot that gun at some people, maybe killed them. And that he's going to do that to more people.

    My eyes fill with tears of panic. I dig my fingernail as hard as I can into my arm, but the pain is nothing. It's more a relief, because it chases away the bad thoughts, even if only for a moment.

    A strange noise startles me and Joanne. Philip is crying, screeching. Horrified, we gesture to him to shut up. But it's too late. The footsteps start towards our door.

    We don't hesitate. Believe me, you wouldn't either. Quickly and noiselessly, we run into a cubicle. We climb up on the loo and then hunker down so that he can't see any bit of us. Or so I hope anyway. Then we angle the door like all the other doors. And we stop breathing.

    Yes, we just leave Philip behind. And yes, I know the consequences. I know this could mean death for him. Heartless as it may seem – if I stayed, I'd be writing my own death sentence. Everyone thinks of themselves first here. There are no heroes. Heroes are an invention of the film industry.

    The seconds seem to stretch. Coward that I am, I close my eyes, tightly, even though it doesn't make anything any better. Joanne grabs my hand and squeezes it so hard that the bones shift. I'm listening to the steps. They are getting louder, coming nearer. When the door is kicked open, we huddle together. Philip is still lying on the floor. We can't see him now. But we can hear him. He seems not even to notice that we've gone. He seems not to notice anything.

    Time is dragging. I'd never have believed that a second could seem like an eternity. Then the shot comes. A roar. The smell of gunshot in the air. Like fireworks on New Year's Eve. Only different. More intense, more biting. Joanne and I are shaking. But neither of us makes a sound.

    First survive, then grieve.

    Another shot. Not a squeak out of us. Silence. And then a snuffle. The sound of the murderer running up and down. He's crying. Crying! As if he were a victim!

    We are still holding our breath. He could still find us. And I don't want to end up like Philip. Lying on the floor with schoolmates behind me who daren't make a sound.

    He leaves. I can hardly believe it. I was about to kiss life goodbye, but he's gone. Disappeared. Maybe we'll get out of this. Alive.

    We wait for a bit. Maybe a minute. Hard to say. I've lost my sense of time. Now I pull away from Joanne and realise that I have absolutely no feeling in my right hand. Joanne has made some impression on my hand. I move it carefully. Then I move my feet. Joanne opens the door of the cubicle very softly.

    And there he lies. White in the face. In a pool of his own blood. His brown hair looks lank. His eyes glassy. His mouth too pale.

    I read in a book that dead people look peaceful. You would think they were only asleep. Philip looks like what he actually is: violently murdered, victim of a psycho.

    I feel sick. Tears prick my eyes. But they don't flow. I'm too numb for that. Too shocked. Almost like a dead person myself.

    Beside me, Joanne is sobbing softly. I put my hand over her mouth. I can feel her spittle on my palm. I take her in my arms and rock her gently back and forth, the way you rock a baby to sleep. The only thing that crosses my lips is a single little shush. It echoes around the tiled walls of the room and seems way too loud. When silence saves your life you redefine what's loud and what's soft.

    I sit on the floor, hugging Joanne. What else could I do? I lay my head back and pretend I'm in a forest. The trees are rustling and I can hear the animals. Everything is the way it should be.

    That calms me down a bit.

    Until the next shot. That startles the hell out of me. It was just outside in the corridor and it echoes through all the walls.

    It would probably have been smarter to stay sitting there. But I get up and go softly to the door. Joanne doesn't follow. She lies collapsed on the floor. Like a dead person.

    I open the loo door just a crack. Then, very slowly, not sure what's awaiting me, I stick my head out. And what I see is a thousand times worse than anything else I have seen this day.

    Because there is a boy lying on the floor out there, and it's Toby. My boyfriend. The sweet boy who texted me this morning so I wouldn't over-sleep because it's Monday. Toby is the boy I had my first time with, who was the first to say to me, I love you.

    Toby is lying there on the floor. Toby, who wanted to win a teddy-bear for me at the funfair shooting gallery, but who brought me a sheep instead, because he didn't have enough points for the teddy. Toby, who'd made me breakfast every second Saturday when we'd spent the night in his parents' mobile home. Toby, who wanted to make me a pizza for our first date, only we both ended up being covered in flour. Toby, who only has to take my hand to comfort me. Toby, who only has to smile at me to make me feel beautiful and invincible.

    This is the Toby who is lying there on the floor. My Toby.

    He sees me. Even though he's lying about ten metres away. Begging me to help him.

    And you can guess what's coming, right? You can see the scene playing out in front of you. I, Miriam Brand, hurl myself at him, distract the boy with the weapon in order to save my boyfriend. You watch as I courageously risk my life for him. Do everything for love of this boy.

    Why should I lie? I stay where I am. I can't bear to look Toby in the eye. I turn my face away. I can't watch my boyfriend die. I can't listen to his loud, panicky wheezing, while at the same time his breath gets weaker and more irregular. I can't save him. Neither can I close the door again and sit down beside Joanne. I can't do anything any more.

    Boom. Paralysed, I hear the next shot. I see two girls running along the corridor. Another shot. I witness the fall of a body. The body of a child who is only in fifth grade. Can hear her friend shouting. She flees. Runs into the nearest classroom, bangs the door shut. The gunman goes on down the corridor, is about fifteen metres from me.

    And then, just like that, Joanne calls my name.

    The gunman swings around ...

    ... and looks me right in the eye.

    Anna Seidl is a young German author, and this is her first book. It was a publishing sensation in Germany (under the title Es wird keine Helden geben) and Anna won an emerging author award for it.

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    Description

    'You can smell fear. You can get hold of it. But nobody dares to touch it.
    We all hold our breath.'

    The story of a school shooting and its awful aftermath; a psychologically convincing study of grief, loss and guilt and their effects on young lives.

     

    A phenomenon in its native Germany, No Heroes has now been translated into English by one of Ireland’s best-known writers for children and young people, Siobhán Parkinson.

    No Heroes is narrated by Miriam, who begins the story smitten by her handsome boyfriend, popular with her friends, and, like the rest of her class, thoughtless in her treatment of social outcast Matthias.

    Until Matthias goes berserk with a gun.

    No Heroes is the story of the ensuing grief and guilt, and about the efforts by Miriam and those around her to rebuild some kind of life – and in doing so to come to some kind of understanding about what happened on that horrific day.

     

    Praise

    ‘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… 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.’ –  No More Workhorse

    ‘An intense and challenging story… The strength of the story lies in this portrayal of a student who grew so resentful of others that he was driven to a suicidal assault on his peers. A great and brave debut novel.’ – Irish Examiner

    ‘A read with universal themes for young people.’ – Woman’s Way Magazine

    Sample

    CHAPTER 1

    You can smell fear. You can get hold of it. But nobody dares to touch it. We all hold our breath.

    It's under us. We can hear the shots. They're loud. Way too loud for my world of school and fun. And I don't know who it is. My best friend Joanne and I had just been told to go down to the ground floor by the teacher, and suddenly everyone is running. And then: boom. And again: boom.

    Of course I know what gunshot sounds like. I am just as addicted to watching telly as the rest of the school. But it's different in real life. It's the same sound, only ten thousand times louder.

    First, we just stop, Joanne and I. Then we start running too. Everyone upstairs is running. The teachers, the caretaker, the students. I can see Philip Schwarz, who is a year ahead of me. I used to fancy him a bit a few years back. He made an impression on me, always so perfect. I can see Lisa Schmidt too. I don't know anything about her. They're running as well.

    I see all this, but I don't take it in. Nobody has really taken anything in. How could we? We're just kids, after all, whether we're thirteen or thirty years old. Because we've never experienced anything like this. I'll tell you a secret. My first thought was just, Shit, I have to get out of here. I thought only of myself. Not of my teachers or schoolmates. Not even of Joanne. My first thought was for myself. And to be honest, I know it was exactly the same for everyone else. There are no heroes here. Because it's not a movie. It's reality, pure and simple. Joanne, Philip and I hide in the boys' toilet. Philip doesn't seem all that great now. He's just a bundle of nerves, cowering on the floor, breathing rapidly.

    Joanne and I are bundles of nerves too. My hands are wet with sweat. My whole body is shaking. And there is pure fear strangling me, bearing down on my heart as if to stop it beating. That's how I know it's real. I'm not ready to die. I'm only fifteen, I've only had my first boyfriend for five months, I'm only in ninth grade. There are so many things that I want to do. And dying is not one of them!

    Another shot sends me reeling. A thud on the floor, a shout, footsteps. He's getting closer.

    It's weird. You'd think he'd be running, in a hurry. But it's not like that. You can hear his shoes, soft and rhythmic on the floor. Almost as if he were on his way to the gym, not shooting open the gates of heaven for terrified people. Or the gates of hell. Or the gates of nothingness.

    Maybe you can imagine what it's like to cower on the cold floor of a stinking toilet. Maybe you can feel the way the cold grips your body, making it shiver uncontrollably. Maybe you can hear the silence, the deathly silence, when everyone just holds their breath and hopes it's someone else who gets it and that they themselves are safe. Maybe you really can. Or maybe not.

    I thought I could. But I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was going to find out how things really are. I used to think you couldn't smell fear.

    'Miriam,' Joanne whispers. Just my name. She gestures towards one of the cubicles with her head. She wants us to hide in there. The footsteps are getting louder. He's quite close.

    I surprise myself by nodding. I didn't think I was capable of nodding. I touch Philip's arm, but his whole body is shuddering and he shakes my hand off. Joanne and I stare at each other for a moment.

    Her eyes reflect my feelings: shock, incomprehension, fear. And I realise it is not going to end well. Not for all of us. That he's already shot that gun at some people, maybe killed them. And that he's going to do that to more people.

    My eyes fill with tears of panic. I dig my fingernail as hard as I can into my arm, but the pain is nothing. It's more a relief, because it chases away the bad thoughts, even if only for a moment.

    A strange noise startles me and Joanne. Philip is crying, screeching. Horrified, we gesture to him to shut up. But it's too late. The footsteps start towards our door.

    We don't hesitate. Believe me, you wouldn't either. Quickly and noiselessly, we run into a cubicle. We climb up on the loo and then hunker down so that he can't see any bit of us. Or so I hope anyway. Then we angle the door like all the other doors. And we stop breathing.

    Yes, we just leave Philip behind. And yes, I know the consequences. I know this could mean death for him. Heartless as it may seem – if I stayed, I'd be writing my own death sentence. Everyone thinks of themselves first here. There are no heroes. Heroes are an invention of the film industry.

    The seconds seem to stretch. Coward that I am, I close my eyes, tightly, even though it doesn't make anything any better. Joanne grabs my hand and squeezes it so hard that the bones shift. I'm listening to the steps. They are getting louder, coming nearer. When the door is kicked open, we huddle together. Philip is still lying on the floor. We can't see him now. But we can hear him. He seems not even to notice that we've gone. He seems not to notice anything.

    Time is dragging. I'd never have believed that a second could seem like an eternity. Then the shot comes. A roar. The smell of gunshot in the air. Like fireworks on New Year's Eve. Only different. More intense, more biting. Joanne and I are shaking. But neither of us makes a sound.

    First survive, then grieve.

    Another shot. Not a squeak out of us. Silence. And then a snuffle. The sound of the murderer running up and down. He's crying. Crying! As if he were a victim!

    We are still holding our breath. He could still find us. And I don't want to end up like Philip. Lying on the floor with schoolmates behind me who daren't make a sound.

    He leaves. I can hardly believe it. I was about to kiss life goodbye, but he's gone. Disappeared. Maybe we'll get out of this. Alive.

    We wait for a bit. Maybe a minute. Hard to say. I've lost my sense of time. Now I pull away from Joanne and realise that I have absolutely no feeling in my right hand. Joanne has made some impression on my hand. I move it carefully. Then I move my feet. Joanne opens the door of the cubicle very softly.

    And there he lies. White in the face. In a pool of his own blood. His brown hair looks lank. His eyes glassy. His mouth too pale.

    I read in a book that dead people look peaceful. You would think they were only asleep. Philip looks like what he actually is: violently murdered, victim of a psycho.

    I feel sick. Tears prick my eyes. But they don't flow. I'm too numb for that. Too shocked. Almost like a dead person myself.

    Beside me, Joanne is sobbing softly. I put my hand over her mouth. I can feel her spittle on my palm. I take her in my arms and rock her gently back and forth, the way you rock a baby to sleep. The only thing that crosses my lips is a single little shush. It echoes around the tiled walls of the room and seems way too loud. When silence saves your life you redefine what's loud and what's soft.

    I sit on the floor, hugging Joanne. What else could I do? I lay my head back and pretend I'm in a forest. The trees are rustling and I can hear the animals. Everything is the way it should be.

    That calms me down a bit.

    Until the next shot. That startles the hell out of me. It was just outside in the corridor and it echoes through all the walls.

    It would probably have been smarter to stay sitting there. But I get up and go softly to the door. Joanne doesn't follow. She lies collapsed on the floor. Like a dead person.

    I open the loo door just a crack. Then, very slowly, not sure what's awaiting me, I stick my head out. And what I see is a thousand times worse than anything else I have seen this day.

    Because there is a boy lying on the floor out there, and it's Toby. My boyfriend. The sweet boy who texted me this morning so I wouldn't over-sleep because it's Monday. Toby is the boy I had my first time with, who was the first to say to me, I love you.

    Toby is lying there on the floor. Toby, who wanted to win a teddy-bear for me at the funfair shooting gallery, but who brought me a sheep instead, because he didn't have enough points for the teddy. Toby, who'd made me breakfast every second Saturday when we'd spent the night in his parents' mobile home. Toby, who wanted to make me a pizza for our first date, only we both ended up being covered in flour. Toby, who only has to take my hand to comfort me. Toby, who only has to smile at me to make me feel beautiful and invincible.

    This is the Toby who is lying there on the floor. My Toby.

    He sees me. Even though he's lying about ten metres away. Begging me to help him.

    And you can guess what's coming, right? You can see the scene playing out in front of you. I, Miriam Brand, hurl myself at him, distract the boy with the weapon in order to save my boyfriend. You watch as I courageously risk my life for him. Do everything for love of this boy.

    Why should I lie? I stay where I am. I can't bear to look Toby in the eye. I turn my face away. I can't watch my boyfriend die. I can't listen to his loud, panicky wheezing, while at the same time his breath gets weaker and more irregular. I can't save him. Neither can I close the door again and sit down beside Joanne. I can't do anything any more.

    Boom. Paralysed, I hear the next shot. I see two girls running along the corridor. Another shot. I witness the fall of a body. The body of a child who is only in fifth grade. Can hear her friend shouting. She flees. Runs into the nearest classroom, bangs the door shut. The gunman goes on down the corridor, is about fifteen metres from me.

    And then, just like that, Joanne calls my name.

    The gunman swings around ...

    ... and looks me right in the eye.

    About the Author

    Anna Seidl

    Anna Seidl is a young German author, and this is her first book. It was a publishing sensation in Germany (under the title Es wird keine Helden geben) and Anna won an emerging author award for it.

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