This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

this-is-where-it-ends“10:00 a.m.
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.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

Someone starts shooting.

Told from four perspectives over the span of 54 harrowing minutes, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.”

What is with me beginning this year with hard-hitting books?  My God, this one was a tough read.  And I’m conflicted about how to feel about this.  On the one hand, I can’t deny that the tension in this book was sky-high, what with the shootings, the people on the outside trying to get help, and those trapped inside not knowing if they’ll survive.  On the other hand, there’s not much insight into how the shooter got to the point of committing mass murder.

The reviews on this novel are widely varied to either end of the spectrum, perhaps because of the same reasons that I just stated.  The really bad reviews focus on the lack of motivation in the perpetrator, and I can see where they’re coming from, although there are hints in the narrative about his past.  Those bad reviews seem to have come away from the book with the idea that the author was trying to paint the reason for things as “he was evil to begin with”, and that’s not what I got out of it.  He seemed to have been a fairly normal young kid, and only began changing as he got older.  It’s also possible that the author was simply going for the “we can’t know what causes someone to do this” angle.  What I didn’t necessarily like was the campy way he stood on stage in the auditorium and delivered an overly dramatic “villain” speech, so perhaps that plays into it as well.

Also, the actions of those outside of the auditorium are kind of strange.  One of the POV characters and his friend actually attempt to save everybody inside, and I don’t really believe that it’s feasible for them to have pulled off in any capacity.  Sometimes people seem to be running towards danger instead of away from it.  I know that getting the POV characters into contact with the shooter is what ups the tension, but it screws with the suspension of disbelief.

This book relies heavily on drama, on gut-punch emotional moments that could be seen as manipulative.  And yet I really can’t deny that this novel had the same appeal to me as Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.  It’s not that the book is necessarily done all that well, but that the thrill ride is what you’re getting out of it at that point in time.  In this aspect, it succeeds.  This is not a story that I’ll likely soon forget.  The images put in my head remind me of a big-screen summer popcorn flick–not something that will win an Oscar, but occasionally the kind of thing you’re in the mood for.

I almost feel guilty for responding to this book and getting into that tense, “what’s going to happen next” frame of mind, because the subject matter of this novel is so serious and has been in the news so heavily in recent months.  But I can’t lie and say that I felt nothing.  This isn’t the best book about school shootings, but it certainly gets you into the fear and chaos of such an event.

This book was a personal purchase.

(Description nicked from B&

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