Saturday, January 7, 2017

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It Ends is, quite simply, about a mass school shooting that happens on the first day of the new semester, a day that begins just like every new semester begins. There is an assembly with most of the school present, where Principal Trenton is giving her usual speech to students who basically aren't listening. It is only when the students try to leave the auditorium and discover they can't open the doors that this ordinary school day takes a tragic turn.

Opportunity High School is located in a remote part of the town by the same name, reached by one two-lane road, and surrounded by a forest and some fields. The grounds are patrolled by one security guard name Jonah. Near the school building is a track where students Claire Morgan and her friend Chris are practicing on this particular morning. Two other students, Tomás Morales and his friend Fareed have just broken into Principal Trenton's office to look at another student's file when they hear footsteps approaching the office door, then leaving. Tomás' twin sister Sylv Morales and her girlfriend Autumn Browne are about to leave the auditorium when they see Autumn's brother Tyler standing in the shadow by one of the exits. As the word 'gun' floats towards them, the first shot is fired directly at Principal Trenton.  Opportunity High School is under siege by a well-armed Tyler.

The story, which covers only 54 minutes, is told from four different points of view - Claire, Autumn, Sylv, and Tomás. Each one has had a relationship with Tyler and each has a reason to fear him now, including his sister. Their past relationships with Tyler are recounted in flashbacks that reveal a young man on a downward spiral after the sudden death of his mother, resulting in anger, verbal cruelty, betrayal and physical abuse. These four narrators also provide an intimate narrative of what was going on both inside and outside the auditorium and why the police didn't respond sooner, including why no cell phones were used to call them as is usual in school shootings these days.

This Is Where It Ends must surely have been a difficult kind of book to write, and on the whole, I thought it was done well. You can't pigeon-hole the type of person who commits this kind of terrible act, nor how the victims of a school shooting will react. And I think Marieke Nijkamp did a great job capturing the fear the students felt, the carnage that these shooting result in and the shooter's motivation.

I know a lot of people were disappointed by the book, especially because Nijkamp is a founding member of the We Need Diverse Book movement. Schools all over the country are more diverse than they were years ago, and the characters in this novel do reflect that diversity. Autimn and Sylv are a leabian couple, Tomás and Sylv are Hispanic, and Fareed is an Afghan Muslim. Some readers seem to think that Fareed was a surface character, merely there as a token for the sake of diversity. I felt that after the shooting began, he was the one who kept the most level head, and I thought that perhaps his rationality came from his experience living in war-torn Afghanistan before moving to the US. But that is just speculation on my part.

This was a difficult book for me to read, which is why it took me a year to read after getting the book from NetGalley. We suffered a great loss in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting when my cousin's 7 year old son was killed there. I really believe that as school and other mass shootings become more frequent, the need to understand and talk about them becomes greater. Book like This Is Where It Ends will hopefully go far in helping to start those difficult conversations.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

If you would like to find out more about about some of the things that can be done to prevent school shootings, be sure to visit Sandy Hook Promise.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This book sounds intense...and like something I really need to read. Thanks Alex :)


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