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.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
The auditorium doors won’t open.
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.
Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Publication date: January 5, 2016
I received This Is Where It Ends from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I love the cover of This Is Where It Ends. I’ve long been a fan of chalk and chalkboards and now chalkboard paint. I’m not crafty and I have no children, so I have no real use for the trend, but I love it anyway. So obviously I was attracted to the cover. Not just chalk, but colored chalk! (I love color.)
I was a little less sure of the plot. It’s an important topic and one that’s in the news almost weekly, but I generally go for lighter books. To my surprise, it wasn’t the plot that didn’t work as well with me, but the characters. The school in Opportunity is very diverse for small-town Alabama. I mean, I didn’t know much about the actual demographics of Alabama, but diversity isn’t the first thing you think of when you hear the name of the state and particularly think of small towns. (The small town I live in, for example, is 98% white and that statistic comes directly from the 2010 US Census, not pulled out of thin air. There are more toddlers in town than there are non-whites. I don’t live in Alabama and it’s possible the small towns in Alabama are more diverse though. But probably not.) Opportunity High School has a mix of white and African-American students, a pair of Hispanic siblings, and at least one Muslim. There’s also a character who is probably Asian-American (based on name), a disabled student, at least one out gay male, and a lesbian couple (not out). The author is involved with We Need Diverse Books and DiversifYA so it’s not surprising, just a little unrealistic for the setting. Again, in my experience.
Anyway, that’s not really the issue, just an observation. The real problem is that there are four different points-of-view. Where are there so many YA books these days with multiple points-of-view? Writers, just stop it! Like flashbacks (and those exist here too *sigh*), it’s lazy. Even worse, I had a hard time getting a handle on any of the characters because they all seemed to have the same voice. Any one of them could have been narrating at any time and it all would have been the same. I did like that not all of the POV characters were trapped in the auditorium. Two, in fact, were outside it and were experiencing it the way they might have any other school shooting. Only in this case, they knew the people inside, and the shooter, and were in a position to do something besides watch in horror.
This is the kind of book that’s supposed to give you the feels, but it didn’t do that for me. Of course, the events unfolding are horrific and I felt that, but I didn’t feel connected enough to any of the characters to care if they lived or died. There was one I liked enough to care, but when he died I didn’t feel much other than a momentary sadness. Then, on to the next. The shooter’s own sister is one of the main POV characters, but it’s like that doesn’t even matter. Where’s the emotion?
The book moves quickly. It’s almost 300 pages and I finished it in one day, which I rarely do. Even when I love a book, I can’t just sit and read it all day. It’s fast-paced and I wanted to keep reading to see what the outcome would be. I’m still not sure why the shooter did what he did. I know what I was told in the book, but I don’t believe that’s the reason. It just seems…stupid and not worth going to that extreme. But then again, shooting up a school is a pretty stupid act and is never the right thing to do.
This Is Where It Ends had the potential to be so much more than it is. While it’s not a bad book, ultimately it’s disappointing because the execution turns a good idea into an average story.