This is Where it Ends
by Marieke Nijkamp
Expected Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Length: 292 pages
Obtained Via: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
View at the Traffic light:
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
The auditorium doors won’t open.
Someone starts shooting.
Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
Oh, I am so conflicted about This is Where it Ends. I’ve been highly anticipating this novel for awhile, because for a long time now I’ve wanted there to be a strong YA novel about school shootings, which is a topic I don’t see get much mention in YA, despite how much school shootings are one of those tragic events that influence culture and our society. The few books about school shootings that are generally named when the topic comes up–Nineteen Minutes and We Need to Talk About Kevin–tend to be adult literary fiction, not YA. I was hoping This is Where it Ends would contribute to this conversation, but. . . I just don’t know. I loved the characters, but the plot left me skeptical.
Let’s start with the good stuff, then. This is Where it Ends is told through several different points of view and the story encapsulates 54 minutes, not even an hour. Each character has an unique voice, so it didn’t take me long to tell them apart. However, there were a lot of relationship threads between all these points of view, and it became REALLY hard to follow. There are so many sibling pairs in particular that I had a hard time remembering who was brother and sister(which I also found a bit strange, that the pairs were all brother and sister and not, say, a brother and brother or sister and sister, for instance.) There was a noteworthy amount of character building considering the time frame of the novel, so I was really impressed by that. The characters were really diverse and felt REAL as people. That was the great part(though there was one POV that I thought was completely unnecessary).
However, the plot felt. . . off to me. Now, I am not an expert on the psychology behind mass shootings or hostage situations in the slightest. But the way the shooting and the character’s reactions were written felt more like a made-for-TV movie than real life. I had really hoped This is Where it Ends would get into the nuances of the situation, but instead to me it read as the opposite. The way the situation played out read more like a hostage situation in a bank robbery than a school shooting(and it feels incredibly sad and weird to acknowledge that these two situations that can be lead to mass loss of life are somewhat frequent enough that we think of them in slightly different terms). Tyler, the shooter, has a specific goal in mind, and it’s not “to cause as much destruction as possible” really. While Tyler has issues with several students, the reason he’s doing this is because his sister is dating another girl, and his goal is to confront his sister.
I also had trouble following the logistics of the novel as well. Most of the students are in the auditorium when the shooting starts, and Tyler locks the door, which is easy enough to follow. But there are also students outside the auditorium for different reasons–some of them are at track practice, and then two students are breaking into files in the office to find something out. These students react in different ways, too, because they realize they might be the only ones who can help the situation. I got that, but I had a lot of trouble following where the students physically were as they tried different things.
There’s also a social media aspect, which I have mixed feelings about. Some of it felt spot-on, like the way the students used twitter to tell the world what was going on. I remember sophomore year of college, there was an “active gunman” on a college campus about an hour and a half away from where I went to school. The situation was taken care of before any one got hurt, but I remember going into my astronomy class and the guy who generally sat next to me telling me about it and showing me on his phone the tweets about it, so that definitely felt true to life for me. However, there was also this blogging addition while the shooting was going on which felt a bit. . . difficult to believe. It’s easy to send a tweet. It’s much harder to subtly blog when you’re in that situation, and it was really confusing to follow the whole blogging story line.
Despite the chaotic event depicted, I actually felt the motivation of the shooter and the character’s reaction too neat to be realistic and had to suspend my disbelief over & over. I think this is a debut with a lot of promise, I liked the characters, and I breezed through it, so it certainly is better than “meh”, but it also didn’t live up to the potential. 3/5 cupcakes.