This Is Where It Ends

This Is Where It Ends Book Cover This Is Where It Ends
Marieke Nijkamp
Juvenile Fiction
January 5, 2016
288

10:00 a.m. 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. 10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 10:03 The auditorium doors won't open. 10:05 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.

 

Review:

“This Is Where It Ends” is not the type of book I can say I liked, loved, or enjoyed.  I’m not sure how it would be possible to say that about a book about a school shooting.  What I can say is that it’s a very important book to read and had me turning the pages all night.

I have already seen some criticisms of the book, and since there are sure to be more I want to address them before the rest of my review.  It would be a shame to have someone skip it just because of something they heard that was negative.  One of the biggest criticisms is that it is in some way disrespectful to those who have survived shootings to write about this subject.  I believe it is more disrespectful to pretend these things do not exist.  Additionally, many of the best realistic fiction books are based upon something that has happened in our society.  Murder, rape, abuse, etc. have all been taken on in fiction.  As long as it is handled well it is not a bad thing.

The other criticism I want to address is that it is not appropriate for young people to read; that it would be too frightening.  I admit, that thought came across my mind.  Then I thought about it and realized that this is the world today’s kids live in.  We can’t pretend the threat is not there or that they do not know these things have happened.  They are all too well aware, and to try to protect them from their own reality is doing nothing but being insulting to them and their intelligence.

Ok, now on to my actual review.  The story reads very quickly, while seeming like it goes on forever.  This is not a bad thing.  The reason for it is that each chapter consists of 1-3 minutes that make up the shooting.  There are four points of view covered.  All are in different places and have different relationships to the shooter.  Essentially, you are in their heads for that small period of time, and that makes you feel the time drag like it would for someone in any sort of life-threatening situation.  It adds a realistic quality that is terrifying.

The characters, including the shooter, are all surprisingly well-developed considering they all have brief pieces of the story in small chunks of time.  The things you think about at the end are very revealing.  The shooter is not one-dimensional.  There is a clear-cut understanding that at that moment, and for some time before it, he was someone to steer clear of, and yet he was not always that way.  The multiple relationships the narrators have to him helps give a rounded view of all sides of him.  Pity and loathing battle one another on each page.

There are so many important themes in this book that I cannot begin to address them all.  How does the media and the public’s appetite for up-to-the-minute coverage affect those who are actually in the situation?  How could it happen here?  Could someone have done anything to stop it?  Does anyone truly know anyone else?  Why do we focus solely on the life of the shooter and not the hopes and dreams of all that are lost?  It’s some very heavy stuff and a perfect starting point for discussions in homes and classrooms.  I would especially encourage those with younger middle readers to read along with them and discuss these things.

Finally, I cannot finish this review without saying this is the most diverse book I have ever read.  There are multiple races, religions, sexualities, and economic classes.  The prejudice of some is explored, but so is the distinct lack of prejudice among others.  It is very well done.

I highly recommend “This Is Where It Ends” to everyone middle grade and up.  It’s a book I find especially important to read in this day and time.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Graphic Violence,  Mentions of Rape

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