CW: white supremacy, bullying, bombing, racism, Islamophobia, and VERY graphic scenes of violence/shooting of children and child death
This review needs to really start with a warning. While I will recommend this book as an amazing true crime novel for the rest of my life, this book is not for everyone. I have a very strong stomach (so to speak) around acts of violence. That’s because I love horror and true crime and I just don’t get bothered.
But this book bothered me.
Hell, I’m even familiar with the case. I listened to the episodes of My Favorite Murder and Casefile that it’s featured in. So, I knew the case. I was familiar with Anders Behring Breivik and the despicable person that he is. Yet nothing really prepared me for this case. Okay? And I’m going to be discussing the crime that he did, which was, largely, against children.
Anders was never a normal child. He had issues and constantly strove to fit in with people. In the end, he gravitated towards white supremacy and trying to cleanse Norway of the liberal party and, by extension, the Muslims who went to Norway seeking asylum from their war-torn countries.
The book that Seierstad put together was beautiful in a horrific way. My copy of the book is a little over 500 pages and it takes a little over 300 of them to get to the actual crime. The bulk of the book is showing you what Anders was like through the years and how he was radicalized, along with showing you the lives of immigrants who had their lives cut short by him. Amazing kids, too. Kids who would have changed the world if he hadn’t committed this crime.
As I said, I’m going to discuss the crime that he committed. I’m going to start that now, so turn away if that’s something you don’t want to read.
On July 22, 2011, Anders set up a bomb in front of the Prime Minister’s office. It exploded, as he had planned it to, and killed eight people. Everyone was rushing there because they weren’t sure if it was the first of many terror attacks or what was going on at all. While everyone was rushing there, Anders went to Utøya where a youth camp was for kids a part of the Labour Party (which was the governing party).
On Utøya, he was dressed as a policeman and he killed sixty-nine children. In two hours, he went around the island and shot children who were trying to get away from whatever was going on. As I said, a lot of them were immigrant children. At least, the ones featured in the book were immigrant children who wanted to make Norway more open for them, more multicultural.
Seierstad wrote an amazing book. The chapter that covers the actual crimes is, like, 70 pages long. I’m not joking. It was huge and I read it in one sitting, feeling the horrific nature of these crimes washing over me. The podcasts I listened to did not really do it justice, but Seierstad did. She allowed you to get to know the kids, then you watched them die. It was incredibly heavy. It physically pained me to read that chapter and the chapters after while you found out who lived or died.
What sticks with me is the impact of crime. Many true crime books I read focus on the actual act without letting you know much about the people affected by the crime, the victims’ friends and family. From Ander’s mother to the parents who had their children taken away from them, Seierstad showed what impact the crimes had.
I’m so glad that I read this book and, hands down, it’s the best true crime novel that I’ve ever read in my life.
Have you read this? Is it going on your TBR?
What true crime novel do you love?