Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pub. Date: 2016
Genres: Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Suspense
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
School shootings are appearing more in the national news. Told from four perspectives, Marieke Nijkamp’s This Is Where It Ends is about a school shooting in Opportunity, Alabama. A school assembly has just ended, but over the next few minutes, everyone finds themselves locked in the auditorium. Then shots start firing. Over the next hour, one student terrorizes the school to exact revenge.
I’ve wanted to read this book since the Aztec High School shooting in December, and that became more urgent with that school shooting in Kentucky a couple weeks ago. It’s a good book with a lot of suspense. The main problems are that this book is plot-driven and doesn’t feel like the people and events exist beyond the pages of the book.
The events of this book take place over an hour with a lot of flashbacks. Each chapter starts with the number of minutes that pass. This reminds the audience that all of this happens in a short time and ups the suspense. I loved that suspense.
The four perspectives shown are Autumn Browne, Tomás, Sylvia, and Claire. Autumn is the younger sister of Tyler, the shooter. All she wants to do is dance her way out of Opportunity. She is also in a relationship with Sylvia. Sylvia shows a negative side of Tyler.
Tomás and Sylvia are twins. They take care of their ailing mother when they’re not in school, and Tomás does his best to protect his sister. He’s also a little sassy. His partner in crime and sister-saving is Fareed Al-Sahar, the resident Muslim boy of the school. He plays a medium-sized role, but he hardly changes from beginning to end.
Other characters who have their perspective shared in some format are Claire and several others. Claire has a relatively minor role in the middle of the action, but she provides a perspective on Tyler’s past. She also has a brother on crutches. The several others mostly appear in social media and blog posts at the end of chapters. Their parts are cleverly done to show how the world responds and tries to piece information together. I detested the trolls and reporters in this part.
For trying to get at why Tyler would do this, I wanted to see his perspective. An interview with the School Library Journal shows that Nijkamp wanted to focus on the victims and didn’t “feel equipped” to write from the shooter’s perspective. I assumed it would be difficult to write from that perspective, even though I wanted to see it. I think the victim perspectives helped piece something together.
While it’s wonderful to have so many diverse perspectives, the novel feels more plot-driven than character-driven. It felt a little predictable because of that. This doesn’t help with the ending feeling like the end of everything that exists in Opportunity. The characters stopped feeling like they existed beyond the pages of the book.
A small complaint: there are few detailed descriptions. Some things are vivid to me because I think school shootings have such a strong place in the public eye. Few things are described in detail beyond something like, “there was blood on the carpet.” I’m not sure it really matters, but I would like to know at least what the school colors are.
If you like reading books about big issues or want to read about a school shooting, this will be an entertaining read.