Tuesday, January 5, 2016

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

The Basics:
This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
Sourcebooks Fire
Contemporary YA
Published January 5, 2016
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Kobo Goodreads

Why I picked up this book:

The cover hooked me, and the book blurb reeled me in.

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 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.

My Thoughts:

A really unique reading experience, This Is Where It Ends is the story of a single event unfolding. Narrated from the perspective of four different students who have different personal connections with the antagonist, the voice of each character conveys the YA experience beautifully. Each character is undergoing that process of figuring him or herself out, trying to negotiate that netherworld between kid and adult, where there's no clear or common path. There's a lot of variety between the four students, despite the ties they share, and I liked seeing the different responses to the event. I would have liked another, unconnected individual who coped...differently, to mix things up, but that might have ultimately muddied the narrative.

I did love that the story is never narrated by the shooter. We can only access the motivations and causes through the bits and pieces offered by the victims, and then, as in real life, it's not entirely satisfying. Which, weirdly, made the entire reading experience more satisfying for me.

I did have a bit of a struggle with the book early on, when I wanted to see everyone as a 'good guy,' when I was weirdly determined for the whole thing to be one strange, horrible misunderstanding. I wanted to find a way to tie everything neatly together, to find my way to that 'happily ever after' ending that I usually crave in a book.

It was, however, pretty darn fantastic as written. I didn't need a tritely happy ending, because this story was too raw and too real to be glossed like that.

I did find the content of This Is Where It Ends not very YA. I do think that emotionally mature teens can handle it, but the average fourteen-year-old? I don't know. I'd be inclined to recommend it to older teens, and young adults. It's definitely not the book to hand to anyone who's already paranoid about school shootings.

I liked the way the relationships between the characters were slowly revealed. I though that there was a realistic degree of connections between the students. There are plenty of flashbacks and shared memories to help connect the reader to the characters beyond what's happening in the moment.

It's really emotional, and a well-told event-as-story. I wouldn't want to read a lot of books in this style, focused around such a tight period of time. But as a single reading experience, I thought it was intense and worthwhile.

Bottom line:

I wouldn't want to regularly read books written in the same style as This Is Where It Ends, but as a one-off, it was pretty fantastic. If you prefer a long story arc, this book is not for you. But for an intimate look at how a major life event can, in the moment, impact different participants, this is a troubling, emotional, recommended read.

4.5 stars
For fans of intense books, YA

Don't just take my word for it though! I've gathered up a couple of other blog reviews, so check them out for some other opinions!

#Nerd Problems 

Death, Books, And Tea

Cindy's Love of Books

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