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This Is Where It Ends Hardcover – January 5, 2016
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The Amazon Book Review
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"This Is Where It Ends is simultaneously heart pounding and heart wrenching. Every word hits frighteningly close to home and is tragically too familiar. This book will leave you asking questions that we as a society should have answered a long time ago." - Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of DUMPLIN'
"Stunning, diverse, and unforgettable, This Is Where It Ends is a book everyone should read to better understand each other and the world around us." - Robin Talley, author of LIES WE TELL OURSELVES
"As long as there are Newtowns and Columbines there will be a desperate need for gripping, well-written, and poignant novels like this one. We are the most gun-violent country in the world, and yet little has been done to stop these rampage killings. Many people have become numb to the news that yet another child, or family, or congregant, has been murdered. Hopefully a book like This Is Where It Ends will make the problem more real to a generation that still has the time, energy, and willpower to do something about it." - Todd Strasser, award-winning author of GIVE A BOY A GUN and FALLOUT
"Entirely gripping and fast-paced." - Lucy Christopher, award-winning author of STOLEN
About the Author
Marieke Nijkamp is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and is an executive member of We Need Diverse Books, the founder of DiversifYA, and a founding contributor to YA Misfits. She lives in the Netherlands. Visit her at mariekenijkamp.com.
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Review originally posted on lysskreads.wordpress.com
TIWIE could have been so much better than it was. It had so much potential to be amazing, to send a message, gain some understanding—to really see through the eyes of victim’s of school shootings everywhere.
The only emotion I got from this book was irritation. For example:
"Chris tosses me my sports drink, and I take a few gulps before discarding it. More shots break the icy air, and we run."
It’s that little key right there, “more shots.” They had already heard the gun shots inside the school. They had decided on a plan to find help. But before doing anything, they needed some Gatorade? That irks me so much. People are getting shot—their friends, siblings, teachers—but they needed to power-up really quick before finding help? No. I understand being in shock. This is not shock. This is a waste of time.
Claire. There was no reason for us to read from her POV. None, whatsoever. All we got from her is that she’s incredibly selfish. She noticed the welts and bruises all over Tyler, HER BOYFRIEND OF TWO YEARS, and instead of mentioning to someone that he was being abused by his father, she acted like the bruises didn’t even exist. Throughout the whole book, in her POV we go back and forth from flashbacks of her with “kind-of-good Tyler, who was just ohhh so kind” (What?) to “Chris, he’s always there for me, do I like-like him, but wait is my brother okay?” Ugh. Her POV in this book is an inconsideration to the true sadness, anxiety, and complete desperation that people go through when faced with the possibility of having lost a loved one and not being able to do anything about it. She made me sick. By the way, she’s Gatorade girl.
All four of the main characters were written the same way. I actually had to go back a couple times to remind myself of who’s POV I was reading from.
I understand that Tyler was troubled, that losing his mom and the thought of Autumn moving away were hard for him to handle. I understand that he was abused, mostly in defense of Autumn. But he was also a bully, a rapist, and a murderer.
And there’s this little gem:
'He stares at me over the barrel, and the corner of his mouth twitches. A smirk. Then a smile—a smile full of delight and mischief. When he pulls the trigger, I feel the shot rather than hear it…The last thing I hear is Ty saying, “I just don’t want to be alone anymore.”'
So, let me get this straight. He’s smiling mischievously while confessing that he “doesn’t want to be alone anymore.” Right. Okay.
TIWIE was hard to finish, but not for the reason I picked it up in the first place. It had so much potential to be amazing. Instead, I’m angry with myself for reading it.
I’d seen this book before, and even before reading the book description, the striking cover image clearly indicates it’s a story about a school shooting. I’ll even interpret the varied color pieces of chalk to mean that these events are going to be viewed through different lenses.
I mostly read YA contemporary fantasy, but every now and then I’ll pick up a straightforward YA contemporary, particularly if it deals with protagonists facing some kind of struggle with their identity. That’s what I like most about YA—the characters are teens, so they’re still in formation and making mistakes with the opportunity to learn about themselves. Reading a book about a school shooting is a little bit outside my comfort zone, mostly because being a high school teacher, the thought of one occurring where I work terrifies me. Unfortunately, no one knows what might trigger someone to pull that trigger, so all we can be is vigilant and aware of the people around us.
Nijkamp’s book tackles this head on by telling the story from four points of view, in various places around the school during the shooting, each with a different relationship to the shooter. Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of stories told from more than two first-person narrators, but here it works exceptionally well because of the immediacy of the situation and these characters’ relationships with each other and the shooter. It also helps that not all four of them are in the same place, so the story can be told both inside and outside the school’s auditorium when the shooter takes the school hostage.
Let’s take attendance. Our shooter is Tyler, holding most of the school hostage in the auditorium. Our four narrators are: (1) Autumn, Ty’s sister and aspiring dancer, who wants to audition for Julliard. (2) Sylv, Autumn’s girlfriend, who had a past incident with Tyler. (3) Tomás, Sylv’s brother, who is a kind of class clown/troublemaker and once had a run-in with Tyler. (4) Claire, school track star and Tyler’s ex-girlfriend. There are also a few other characters we see via those narrators, such as Claire’s teammate Chris, Tomás’s partner-in-crime Fareed, and Claire’s younger brother Matt.
The book starts with Autumn and Sylv in the auditorium along with most of the school, as the principal is delivering her start-of-semester speech. But Tomás and Fareed are breaking into the principal’s office, and Claire and Chris are outside with the track team. The events of the story take place over the course of an hour, with each chapter covering a few minutes of narration from each of the four narrators. Once I got used to the format, I found it fascinating and meticulously detailed. The characters’ actions and reactions were believable, and when each provided some backstory, I read it like their lives flashing before their eyes as often happens when someone is faced with their own mortality. At times, it was gripping.
But once or twice, I found some details that didn’t seem real for me. Maybe they come from years and years working in a public school, but why was almost everyone in the auditorium? What about office secretaries, custodial staff, cafeteria staff, and so on? A security guard is mentioned and shown, but what about everyone else who wouldn’t have a reason to be in the assembly? Of course, this is a minor issue—and only one that someone who works in a school might have—but it made me wonder how Tyler’s actions before he started shooting in the auditorium would have played out in a realistic setting. And then it made me hope that no school ever has to find out.
By the end of the book, I was genuinely attached to these characters and praying for their safety, and I got a little choked up when some things happened to some of them. I will not spoil further by stating whether everyone lives or not. I applaud the bravery of them when faced with the challenging situation, just as I would applaud any such student heroes in a real school shooting.
The ending and epilogue don’t fully provide closure to the book, but that’s fine. In reality, you don’t always get closure, and victims of mass shootings sadly have to live with the memory of the event. Thus, the book almost feels like the memoirs of these four characters recounting the event rather than a piece of fiction. It’s visceral, and the themes of community, individual bravery, and societal problems (mass shootings, abuse, and others) are clear.
Despite only a few plot contrivances in the story’s set-up, the structure of the book and its different narrators are compelling. I wish stories of mass shootings, particularly ones in schools, would remain fictional where it can come to an end, but for those impacted in reality, the grief and memories don’t end as quickly. This Is Where It Ends deserves FOUR AND A HALF STARS.
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