Title: This is Where it Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Series: – –
Available: Jan 5th
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.
Source: ARC from Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley
I’m finding this book difficult to review, because on the one hand the events that unfold in this book are compelling, it’s a quick read and it definitely tapped into my emotions. On the other, it would be hard for all of the above not to work in a book like this because it is an emotional subject – even though only two points really got to me in a book where there is so much death and terror. And when it comes to this particular subject and the way this book unfolds, it becomes hard to see what this book is setting out to achieve.
Mainly this is because of Tyler, the shooter. All four of the main narrators of the story have links to him – his sister, his sister’s girlfriend, an enemy, Ty’s ex girlfriend – yet all the narrators are pretty similar in tone, one of them doesn’t really fit in with the others and the other three don’t paint Ty in a good light. He’s a guy without any redeeming qualities, and though he has grief and abuse in his background it’s hard to work out if he’d always been a nasty bully or if the death of his mother changed that. Most importantly, the reasons for why he snapped and turned murderous are not explained. There are small bits and pieces that might explain his sense of anger and isolation, but he’s not alone in suffering these things, so why this, why now?
His ex-girlfriend Claire’s narration seems set up simply to humanise Ty, but it doesn’t work because even his own sister doesn’t see him the same way so it feels forced. In fact I found Claire’s sections the least interesting of the lot, especially the romance between her and Chris (which was so obvious it made the idea of a relationship between her and Ty both surprising and doubtful) and the general ineffectiveness of the police. If her brother Matt had narrated instead I would have preferred it. Not only is he inside, but surely the disillusionment would have cut deeper for him. I also liked him a lot more than Claire and would rather have known what he was thinking throughout.
I couldn’t really connect with Ty’s sister Autumn. Her view of Ty did nothing to make him seem like a nice guy behind the troubles. In fact she makes him seem awful – he comforts her at times, sure, but he doesn’t try to protect or support her. As a character she’s distanced herself from her own emotions, has effectively pushed her girlfriend away and is only interested in getting out and away from town. It was hard for me to like her.
The girlfriend, Sylv, has her own troubles to deal with. I liked her more than Autumn, but again the whole point of her seemed to be to show how awful Ty is. As if he needed any help in that area. I also struggled to unpack Ty’s actions towards her – was it because Autumn loved her that he hated her? Or was it because she loved Autumn (and therefore was not interested in him)? Or maybe because Tomás warned him off, so he did it because he could? All three? It was all so tangled and utterly unresolved, especially when things got skewed so that the entire shooting seemed to be about her – which, just… what?
My favourite of the narrators was definitely Tomás, Sylv’s twin brother, and an enemy of Ty’s. Although I was confused as to whether the two of them had always been at odds or if it was just a recent thing. He’s a much more proactive character than any of the others and he makes a real difference. I think that was what I liked about him, since his character is okay but not particularly developed. I would have loved to have had some of the thoughts of his best friend, Fareed, too. I think he would have made a great narrator for this book, as would the young cadet, CJ – her tweets (or the other tweets and blog entries) didn’t really add anything to the book for me and I would have much rather had more from her.
For me, the overall feeling of this book was why? Not just because of confusion over Ty’s motivations, but why was this book written at all. If I want to be shocked by senseless violence, there are plenty of real world examples I can sadly turn my attention to. This book doesn’t add anything to the debate or offer up any kind of discussion about the situation or the people involved, it just wrenches the emotions around in a sensationalist and not even any kind of satisfying way. There are very few heroics here, no sense of victory, not even that many moments of simple human decency, it’s just hurting and sad and senseless and the book left me upset and even a little angry.
So even though I found it a quick read, I am sadly left disappointed. It’s not just that I expected more, I expected something and all this book left me with was nothing.
This is Where it Ends is out January 5th.
Visit Marieke Nijkamp for more details.