Book Title This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Number of pages: 292
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 a.m.: The auditorium doors won’t open.
10:05 a.m.: 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.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– A timely novel giving life to social circles shared by school shooters. However, the shooter isn’t given a voice
– Multi POV narrative; uses twitter, blog posts, flashblacks
– Set in Alabama and raises questions per the demographics and the representation of diverse inclusion of the physically disabled, LGBTQIA+, cultural (Spanish, Middle Eastern), mentally ill
– Some scenes overdramatized with cinematic flair
– Lacking motivation for the shooter and doesn’t really provide solid reasons as to why
This book join the ranks of most underwhelming titles I’ve read in 2015 (release is in 2016). Cover’s great, though.
Full disclosure: I received an e-ARC of This Is Where It Ends from Netgalley. I extend thanks to SourceBooks Fire for providing me the opportunity to review this book.
When an assembly ends at Opportunity High, students make like bandits to the exit; some hoping to get a quick smoke in before the next class, others wishing to linger with their friends. But the doors don’t open…except for one, and standing between freedom is a student with a gun.
The Alabama town Opportunity High is set at is pretty plain. In a way, it allows readers to draw from personal experience and imagery of school layouts.
But setting is more than just infrastructure. It very much regards the heart of a community; the stakeholders being pivotal to how this story is sold. That’s where things become muddled. It’s fine that the perpetrator locked the school population in the auditorium but locking every single student and teacher etc. etc. etc. EXCEPT for the convenient narrators is utter nonsense (e.g. track & field team and random students rummaging through the administrative office).
Could it happen? Yeah.
But to have everything and everyone so conveniently placed? Shut the front door.
You’re telling me there aren’t people who’d skip an assembly or are already detoured elsewhere (considering it’s the same mundane speech year in-and-out)? That only one janitor works the shift? That there was no one who saw this kid fucking chain up the doors in preparation for doomsday? That no one in this day and age had a mobile device or a mind to call police instead of Tweeting about it?
These variables make the situation read so black and white with no room for anything external to exist. These are just some aspects that killed the promise of this story to come alive.
This Is Where It Ends falls on its own sword gun-wound on one basis: when the choice is made to withhold the gunman’s voice, readers are only able to understand through filtered glasses. And when characters continually preach the shooters’ evilness, it does not assert the underlying motivation to carry out these acts. I’m not looking for redeeming qualities but that doesn’t mean their psyche isn’t critical to the story. All I got was a hollow villain and an unfairly one-sided story that chooses to dismiss the psychology of its central character.
And that’s a problem.
There’s an opinion that we shouldn’t fanfare a gunman for their actions as it feeds unnecessary fame. I get that. But without the shooters POV, the complexity between character dynamics just isn’t there. With flashbacks, these memories only promote victimization in an attempt to tug the reader’s heartstrings. Sure the shooter is an asshole but manipulating the story to continually reinforce the time-bomb is not something that should be decided for the reader. It would be more compelling to show the mental breakdown rather than witness it through an individuals biases.
I can’t even begin to acknowledge the inclusion of the physically disabled, LGBTQIA+, and cultural diversity with all this other smoke being blown in my face. For what it’s worth, it’s great that these characters exist even if the small-town U.S. vibes would suggest otherwise (I combed through state demographics). My concerns with the representation revolve around how these characters felt boxed into their specialness; as if they held a damn neon sign that read: “statistic is over here!” Representation is one thing but realistic fulfillment is another.
But let’s get to the what-the-fuck-is-this part.
There are scenes dramatized as if the intent was to stretch the story for cinematic flair. This may be a spoiler but you deserve to know. Some kids had the opportunity to find safety outside with the cops as the shooter did not know where they could have gone. So, apparently, the rational thing to do is to run deeper into the school and hide out—as if they were playing Hide and Seek. I shit you not. Is this some reverse psychology bullshit? It makes no sense. I won’t even begin to rant about how the gunman didn’t even reload once in three-quarters of the novel after shooting up x victims (let alone his seemingly perfect accuracy toward everyone except the protagonists).
Here’s the thing: I don’t have to read Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends to feel shitty for such a controversial and important topic. But for a character heavy story spanning four POVs, the gray areas need to engross me over-and-beyond the suspenseful nature of the conflict; otherwise, the entire point isn’t any different beyond the headlines we see in the news. Don’t get me wrong, this book has it’s moments of hope. It’s the why that’s unsupported and proves underwhelming. At least give us an epilogue manifesto or something, I don’t know.