At 10:00 am, the principal of Opportunity High School in Alabama has finished the same speech she gives every year, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester.
At 10:02 am, the students all get up to leave but the auditorium doors will not open.
At 10:05 am, someone starts shooting.
This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp, is a story told over the span of 54 minutes in which a high school shooting occurs. Shown from four different perspectives, it relates the horror and heroism that takes place as one student commits the most heinous of crimes against his peers.
I was in high school when the Columbine shootings took place. I still vividly remember the feelings of returning to school the next day and how the place felt different. Nothing like that had happened before but now it’s an epidemic. Each time I hear of another school shooting, I’m reminded of how those days felt and that is what drove me to pick up this book.
I thought that telling the story in “real time“ was a good and unique idea. For me, it added to the pain of the story, made it feel more real. This method doesn’t allow for fleshing out the cause of it or for really developing back stories for the characters, but for me this wasn’t what the book was about.
I also appreciated that this book was told from multiple points of view. The shooting is told through the perspectives of Sylvia and Claire who are in the auditorium, Tomas who is one of two students in the school but outside of the auditorium, and Claire who is running track outside of the school. It also includes texts and tweets from students inside and outside of the school, which is haunting given the way social media brings new perspectives to situations like this (the part where the reporter is asking students questions by Twitter hit me pretty hard.)
I know that reviews of this book are pretty split, some love it and some hate it. I do agree with some of the criticisms, mostly that I felt like the diversity of the book felt forced. I want to see diversity in books but it should be natural and not stereotypical. Also, the flashbacks took away from the story for me. I think this story should either have been written completely in real-time and only about the shooting or it should have delved deeper into the emotions and psychology, past and present.
I think this is a book that people need to read for themselves. We all have different experiences and feelings surrounding situations like this and what one may feel is based on that. I didn’t come in to this book looking for the psychology behind school shootings, I was expecting a real time storytelling of a school shooting and that is what I got.