Review: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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Review by: Meg

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis: 

10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity 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 from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Review: Reading the synopsis of this book, I was thrilled to pick it up and start reading, because the subject matter is of such importance in our world today. I was very curious and hopeful to see how the sensitive, and unfortunately, very real, problems of gun violence and school shootings would be breached in a young adult novel.

From start to finish, the writing style of this book was absolutely harrowing, and the way in which Nijkamp let the plot run through four distinct narrators, was brilliant. The mysterious and dark tone of this novel was haunting, and I think this writing style was perfectly suited for the very intense subject matter of the novel. I truly loved the way Autumn and Slyv’s characters intertwined and overlapped, both in their traits, but also throughout the plot of the novel.

Throughout This Is Where It Ends, the author also touched on other very important topics in our world today such as the LGBTQ+ community, abuse, rape, bullying, etc., however, I found the way these important issues were approached extremely shallow throughout the novel. This book had such potential to look at the important issue of the psychology of school shooters, but seemed to be a disappointment every time the question of “Why would the shooter be doing this?” or “What could’ve caused this?” was approached.

The shooter, Tyler, was my biggest letdown in this novel, although (obviously) he is the antagonist in this novel, I was so utterly disappointed that he wasn’t given any type of humanity throughout the plot. In the end, it seemed that Tyler was simply evil just to be evil, and became a school shooter just because he could. This was my biggest issue with the novel because although the book had great potential to really delve into the psychology of a person like Tyler, it was a wasted opportunity because the villain was so inhumanly evil and cruel.

However, I did enjoy the plot of This Is Where It Ends, it was, what I imagine is, an extremely accurate representation of the absolute dread and fear of being a involved in such an intense and dangerous situation. The four main characters all have different roles in the situation inside, and outside, the high school that all correlate beautifully together and create an extremely serious, and anxious, mood throughout the novel.

My favorite part of this novel though, is the development of the high school and the town around it. As a person who just graduated from high school myself, I truly felt the emotions of the anxiety about the future, the sense of unity among the students, and the fear of what is in the world outside of the town you have known your entire life. It is these emotions and situations of the excitement and fear of getting out of their small hometown that have the greatest impact on each of the characters in this novel, which makes for a brilliant way to develop each person throughout the book.

Overall, this book had some huge upsides, but also unfortunately some major pitfalls as well. It was certainly a fast, but dark and intense, read, with such an important set of topics to discuss in our world today. In the end, I think that it could have (and should have) gone deeper into the psychological aspects of school shootings, but still provides an interesting and important platform for this serious issue.

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