It begins with the closing of the principal’s speech at Opportunity High. Confusion rustles through the auditorium as students discover the locked doors. Then one door opens, and a boy enters. A boy with a gun.
Four alternating viewpoints, each a student with a connection to the shooter, relate this tense, heartbreaking tale about a community ripped apart by violence. The story spans fifty-four minutes.
This Is Where It Ends includes a diverse body of characters across lines of race, religion, and sexual preference. As a YA reader and reviewer, I’ve commented before that I wish there were more stories featuring Muslim characters in which they or their family members aren’t portrayed as terrorists. I think especially right now, we need those voices. We need those stories. Fareed was probably my favorite character. He was kind, smart, patient, and loyal, but he got things done, too. I loved that he wasn’t defeated by other people’s prejudices.
I really liked that each chapter began with a timestamp. The story unfolds so rapidly, and there’s a lot of chaos and panic, and that minute-by-minute unraveling of the timeline kept things feeling critical. I feel like that high-tension plot is the real strength of the story.
In reading the different points-of-view, I often felt like I wasn’t getting as deep as I wanted to, especially early on in the story. It’s a really tough balance to strike to give enough slow insight into the characters versus keeping the narrative moving to avoid letting the tension slack off, so I think it could just be that I’m used to those slower-paced, more cerebral narratives, or prefer them.
There’s a heroic moment in which one character basically gives their life for another character. I love that gesture and how brave it was, but I felt like because of how it unfolded in the plot, it didn’t have to happen and was kind of just this little pause for, “okay, then this person we like dies, and moving on again.” I wanted it to mean more. However, the truth is, that in situations like this, there often isn’t a big moment that means something for each casualty, you know? I think because of who this character is, I expected it to mean more.
There’s never a good time to read a tragic story, but it is always the right time to be reminded of courage.
It is early December as I write this review. It’s always difficult to review a story about a situation like this in the wake of a real life event like what happened in San Bernandino. I was reading Black Helicopters, a story about a terrorist bombing, when the bombing happened in Boston in 2013. I’ve had This Is Where It Ends in my review queue for some time, but there hasn’t seemed a good time to read it.
I can only say that we need to be reminded that people of good heart, of moral courage come from every background, despite what other voices and what our own fears would have us believe. We need to hold on to the truth that we are all created equal, all worthy of love, all valuable. And Marieke Nijkamp’s brave story, though cloaked in the senseless tragedy of a school shooting, reminds us of these critically important beliefs.
Extreme profanity used with moderate frequency.
We learn that a girl was raped, but no details about the incident. Two girls have a romantic relationship. They hold hands and kiss.
Sylvia prays occasionally through the story, and remembers sharing in spiritual traditions of her Mexican family. Fareed whispers prayers as well (he is a Muslim.) At the end of the story, survivors gather at a candlelight vigil and pray according to their faiths.
A teenage boy shoots students, teachers and staff at his high school. One person is killed by asphyxiation. An abusive man beats his children, leaving them bruised. Some of these scenes are extremely violent and some of the descriptions quite graphic. I’d say this one isn’t for the faint of heart or the very sensitive.
Autumn and Tyler’s dad is an abusive alcoholic.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.