Published by Sourcebooks Fire on January 5th 2016
Genres: young adult, Thrillers, contemporary
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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.
On a certain level, it is comforting that art mirrors real life. In today’s fiction aimed at young readers, mass school shootings are not a rarity on the shelves. Authors tweak their work to fit the audience, allowing them to find comfort, answers and escapism in books, media and literature.
This is the second book on 2016 to feature the theme of a school shooting, and I am fairly certain that this is just the tip of the bloody iceburg. Some books aim to discuss the questions of after, the why and how. In Nijkamp’s novel, however, she places her audience into the middle of the events, exposing them to the real time of the anatomy of a real life-threatening shooting.
This is Where it Ends doesn’t shy away from any subject matter. In the book, we meet characters that come from different religious and ethnicity backgrounds (there is a Muslim boy, which is friend constantly and realistic fears for the entire time), characters of different sexual orientation, (two of the main characters are a lesbian couple), and even feature characters with special needs and different home environment. In a real setting, this diversity fits well, even for a small, southern USA town. Nothing is used as a prop or a gimmick, and I applaud the writer from steering away from tokenism.
When it comes to the emotional appeal of the novel, I had a quite different approach. The topic was already a powerful, charged subject without the added melodrama. While this might come across as cold-hearted, it still doesn’t sit well with me when characters make needless sacrifices just for the sake of making an emotionally charged moment “gut-wrenching”. It seems insulting to set a massacre as the stage to wonder if someone would make a good boyfriend, or to needlessly act recklessly to redeem some unlikable character qualities. It just comes across as distasteful and more like a soap opera. It might be more of a it’s-me-not-you type situation, but I wasn’t able to shake the CW-33/MTV/Reality TV glamour to a very horrible setting.
However, even with these few hiccups, This is Where it Ends is still a gripping, horrifying, shattering tale of loss and small victories. This isn’t an easy, feel good read. There is going to be anger, hurt, depression, anxiety, and shock at the end of this. There are moments when I just wanted to put down the book and say, “No more.” Nijkamp takes such a small space and makes it huge. She manages just a few lines of script to drive home the loss of each death, no matter how big or small the victim.
This book is horrible for all of the right reasons, and right for all of the horrible reasons. Expect to come away from this one uncomfortable, confused, and filled with more questions than answers. There is no easy way to label the emotional output by the time you reach the last page.