Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: 5th January 2016
Buy at: BookDepository
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.
The western world is full of stories of school shootings, the US in particular. As an European, where such acts are much rarer and who watches it all from afar, hearing of another school shooting provokes little more than a sigh and a question of “when will the US learn?” Or it did until I read this book. This Is Where It Ends brought the horror back to school shootings.
Before I say anything else, let’s start by addressing the obvious. This is not an easy book to read. It’s raw. It’s terrifying. It’s painful. There are high chances it’ll set your heart running and make you cry. Worst of all, it’s realistic and personal to the point that it becomes hard to separate yourself from the horror that develops on the page. Don’t read this expecting a happily ever after. Don’t read this thinking it will all be okay, because it won’t. Not yet. But it will one day. Walk into this book with this in mind and maybe it’ll be slightly easier to bear it. Maybe.
Told from the perspective of five different students, the story covers more than the shooting itself. It unfolds memories, fears, wishes, betrayals and hopes of the many characters. You learn about who they are, and what the shooting is turning them into. Slowly, quickly, they take over your heart and you hope beyond hope they’ll be saved. But, of course, things aren’t so simple. These are teenagers and children, seeing a classmate, a friend, an ex-lover, a brother pointing a gun at them, killing their friends and family. It could never be simple.
Even more so when the author has crafted a group of characters with unique voices and distinct personalities, who are so very diverse that you are bound to see yourself reflected in one of them. There are characters who are queer, disabled, of religious minorities, and of colour, sometimes checking more than one of these “boxes”. Oh, and did I mention they are the main characters too? Nijkamp paints the world as it is: complex and diverse.
My one problem with This Is Where It Ends was that it didn’t last longer. I wanted to know more of the characters’ lives, more of how the shooting changed the survivors, just… more. But I am a rather masochistic person when it comes to books. The great majority of readers so far seem to be fine with the amount of tears they shed, which is more than fine. Any more weeping and one might suffer from dehydration.
In short, this is an unmissable story that will not fail to shock and horrify you. It’s a page turner that will make your heart ache at every line. It’s a story that will never make you look at school shootings the same way again. It’s a book that I feel privileged to have read and will certainly read again and again and again.
The book in a quote
“We’ll be stronger than our fear. We’ll make it out of here today. We’ll find a way.”