This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (Galley)
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Genre: Fiction, young adult, contemporary, drama, high school, is this exploitative? — I can’t decide if this is exploitative
Rating: 3.32 out of 5 stars
Summary: Taking place over the course of 54 minutes, this contemporary novel about a high school in Alabama deals with a threat that has become all too prevalent in the past couple of decades: school shootings. Told through shifting viewpoints and several forms of communication, Marieke Nijkamp’s debut novel is a drama-filled yet fictional look at what happens when a boy brings a gun to school.
Set in a high school in Opportunity, Alabama, This is Where it Ends is a quick read written by a member of We Need Diverse Books that follows several students after one of their former classmates returns armed and ready to take revenge.
From multiple intertwined POVS to tweets, text messages and even online journal entries, Nijkamp tells her 54 minute story — broken apart by times — with modern considerations in mind, lending the tale slightly more credibility.
Due to the shifting narrators (who are all good, bland and just and deserve to be more fully fleshed out), readers gets multiple looks at the same story, from the girl who can do nothing but wait, to the boy who wants to save everyone, the students who have nowhere to run and the girl related to the shooter.
The only people not represented are the adults, including the teachers and the parents of the potential victims. Despite there being zero adult representation however, the teenagers are written as if they’re much older. Granted I don’t know what being in an active shooter situation is like, but the actions and even the speech patterns of these kids do not feel genuine.
It also seems like a huge missed opportunity to not give the shooter (who while ostracized by the community is also painted as a one dimensional child-killing monster) his own POV to explain what led to his actions. To boil everything down to a simplistic answer seems like cheating, and does a great disservice to the plot and to real life victims.
Perhaps its biggest failing however is that while This is Where it Ends focuses on telling messages of love, courage, hope, loss and the importance of living for today, it doesn’t really do much to open up a dialogue about gun violence in America, or abuse, sexual assault, mental illness and depression — all subject matters that the victims are dealing with throughout the course of the novel.
Despite the very serious subject matter, the novel isn’t entirely bogged down in dramatics. There are a few moments of brevity (because coping mechanisms), some of which work and some that don’t. For example, mentioning that the school mascot is the Ocelot of Opportunity seemed a tad out of left field.
While I didn’t find myself on the edge of my seat throughout the narrative, there were a couple of moments where I genuinely felt something in the dry husk I call my heart. Perhaps if we were given stronger characters I would have been less detached.
While I didn’t hate the book (in fact I read it in a few hours), the flaws — particularly in the character building — really let me down.
This is Where it Ends, you could have been so much more!
- It’s a quick book that can be read in one day
- Appreciated that it was told through multiple forms of communication
- Diverse cast of characters
- Teenagers didn’t really feel like teenagers
- Doesn’t open up a good enough dialogue about gun violence or anything really
- Characters fell flat and weren’t very complex, especially the shooter
- “… I can’t shake the feeling that with every day that passes, she slips away like starlight at dawn.”
- “Together we could be so strong, but the gun has made us individuals.”
- “I never realized courage was so terrifying.”
- “… There are more stories in the universe than stars in the sky.”
- “We will remember the thirty-nine tonight. We will remember them tomorrow. We will remember them for all our tomorrows. And there will be many tomorrows; there’ll be thousands of them. So let’s make them good ones.”
This is Where it Ends isn’t a perfect novel (not by a long shot) but if this sort of contemporary drama is your thing, it’s a quick read for a rainy day. Just don’t expect a grandiose, life-changing story.