This is Where It Ends - Marieke Nijkamp
10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity High School finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
10:03 a.m. The auditorium doors won't open.
10:05 a.m. Someone starts shooting.
Told from four different perspectives over the span of fifty-four harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.
The strongest complaint about this book is the actual writing, I had to keep checking because I thought perhaps an actual teenager wrote it. Maybe it's supposed to feel like that on purpose, but I have to be honest, it was distracting and made the book feel less consuming. It could have had a much larger impact on a reader, to the point where you buy five copies and start handing them out to people declaring that they absolutely must read this.
This is not going to be that book.
It starts off with kids at school, listening to a boring assembly, and some kids at a track meet. The Principal finishes her assembly and before excusing students, we have the gunman, Tyler, come up and start his frantic and seemingly pointless rampage. The book switches points of view from different students, features some would be tweets and blog posts from people connected to the situation, and it just feels... unbalanced. The entire time I'm reading this book and I feel like we're gearing up for this big finale reveal on why this is all happening. And sure, we get an answer but it's so.... anti-climatic that I felt like we wasted all of this build up. There are also so many passages in the book that are absolutely eye roll worthy. When the shooting happens, the kids at the track practice freak out. One student quickly tells another to "figure out" how to hot wire a car.
Nobody is just going to figure out how to hot wire a car when these are track students, shouldn't they be able to run to get help? I mean, come on.
The author builds up this plot revolving around Sylv and Autumn (the shooter's sister) and we get no real satisfaction with it. All of the events leading up to the shooting are basically skirted around, hinted at, whatever, and it makes it feel like this author was in over her head. You want to write a provocative book? OK, but you better make damn sure you're equipped to handle it. The ending fell completely flat for me. So many loose ends.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on the one thing that is guaranteed to send me right over the edge with teen books: when kids whine about not belonging in the community they live in.
OH SHUT UP, ALREADY.
Maybe if you lived in the Bible belt and you were transgender, I'd get it. But you're just any other kid, moaning about not belonging? Shut up. Seriously. I hate when authors throw this story line in there thinking it'll make the kids reading it feel connected to the writing. It's just so frustrating and makes me feel like instead of writing a gripping book, we're just throwing every cliche into a few pages and then calling it a "must-read". It's not. There are so many other books that approach this topic that do it tremendously well. Do I think teenagers will like it? Yes, I do. But as a parent of a soon-to-be teenager, I didn't find it realistic. Sorry.