Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary, LGBT+
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: January 5th 2016
4 OUT OF 5 STARS
“Together we could be so strong, but the gun has made us individuals.”
Fifty-four minutes is all it takes. Told from four different points of view, This is Where it Ends tells a thrilling and tragic tale of a school shooting. Each of the four stories takes place in two to four minute chunks as they struggle to survive.
This is a review that is going to be extremely hard to write. To put it simply: I loved this book. It was exciting and fun to read, easy to finish in a single sitting. Above all books should entertain, but I’m not entirely blind to the issues that stopped it from being a complete masterpiece.
There were parts of this book where I could not suspend my disbelief. Where I realized certain things were just TOO ridiculous to be realistic. Three of the four main characters stare down the barrel of a gun while giving speeches. Two of these speeches read like prose from a John Green novel far more suited to a graduate of literature than a teenager. Courage does exist, but these characters spit in the face of death. They’ve crossed the thin line between brave and stupid. There are exchanges I cannot force myself to believe would ever happen between a teenager and someone who just murdered a dozen people.
It’s a novel that should have been about victims, but made itself about heroes.
I know that sentence sounds like it’s a good thing but it’s not. A lot of the trauma a shooting like this should create is lost because our protagonists are too busy giving speeches about their love or trying to save the whole school. The protagonists are almost flawless caring for sick mothers, working hard, defending siblings; I could not give you a single flaw of any of the four main characters. Sure Tomás beats people up but only for good reasons. He’s lovably mischievous. The four protagonists barely even sound different in their narration; which doesn’t even cover that Claire is horrifically boring because she’s not even involved in the shooting or the rescue.
On the other end we have our shooter, what a twisted caricature he is. Tyler does at times speak like a school shooter would; but the entire affair has been made too black and white. Tyler is not a kid who snapped, he’s evil. Tyler is given a few good characteristics immediately swept away with more stories about how he was definitely pretty bad the whole time. It changes the situation from a tragedy no one could have seen coming to “yeah maybe you should have noticed when he did all this other evil stuff before this”.
He’s also a flawless murderer. The amount of set-up he does and the fact that almost nothing goes wrong for him is entirely unbelievable. Things only start to go wrong for him when it’s convenient story-wise and then they go so far in the opposite direction it’s still hard to believe.
it’s also very diverse, and diversity is a good thing; but Nijkamp chose to set this book in Alabama. We’re meant to believe that in Alabama an out-and-proud gay student has few issues and everyone loves him for standing up to bullying. Like discrimination against the LGBT+ community doesn’t exist in Alabama schools anymore. Not to mention that in this small town a shooting manages to last almost an hour while the police muddle around outside waiting – which is no longer something they do in school shooting scenarios.
I’m torn; I loved this book despite all the issues. It was a joy to read; but it is written with bare bones understands of school shootings and school shooter psyches. It puts good and evil hats on the characters and fine; we know school shooters are bad. What they are doing is bad; the interesting part is why. Tyler is given some very flimsy motivation and sent on his way.
This book is a good thriller. It is not a good book dealing with school shootings. It’s not a good book about the moral complexity and why shooters become killers. It’s not even very good at creating the diversity it strives to feature. But it’s entertaining. I have to give it that.
It may have MANY flaws; but it was a good read and if you don’t think about it too much it’s a lot of fun.