Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Pub. Date: January 5th 2016
Source: Sourcebooks Fire
This book gave me a case of the feelings.
I finished this book awhile ago now, but I had to let it stew around in my brain for awhile before I could properly and professionally write out my thoughts about it. There are some things that this book does very well, and other things that it does rather poorly, and so in the end I ended up giving it a neutral three out of five stars.
This is a tough book to read, not in its grammar or lexicon, but because of the overall plot. School shootings are tough stuff, scary stuff. Stuff that we unfortunately see every day on the news, and that some of us have personally been affected by, in some form or another. In my case, fortunately, no one was injured despite shots being fired. But even that is something that has stayed with me. It's a rough call to reality that it could happen at any school, to anybody, and that's terrifying. And yet, in its terror, this book is mesmerizing. I read it in one go, because I couldn't put it down. Thankfully I was on a train for 8 hours, so I had time to spare.
It took awhile to get used to the format of this book. It's comprised of four distinct, separated points of view. I'm not overtly fond of switching POVs, especially when it's four of them. That said, I think Nijkamp handled it fairly well. After a while it became easy to switch gears and decipher whose chapter was whose. I was disappointed that in these four points of view, the shooter wasn't given a voice. That's the voice I most wanted to read about, and I was left a bit sad that I didn't get that opportunity.
I appreciated that in addition to the separate points of view, the author also had mixed media strewn throughout the book. There is prose, as is standard in a novel, but also snippets of text messages, tweets, and blog posts. It brings the story into this decade and makes it feel more realistic. I think teens will relate to it more because of this incorporation of technology.
I do think that this book pulls out every single card in its literary deck, though, and it seemed like it was just for the purpose of saying the book included them. Different races? Check. Gay characters? Yup. Deaths of students, deaths of parents, rape, abuse, mental illness? Yup, all present. That's not a bad thing. I'm all for diverse characters and plots. I also know that everyone has their own story. But when it feels like it's all just plopped into the book for the sake of being plopped, it turns me off a bit. It also left me a bit confused. Part of one of the subplots of this story is that the town is a rather small and judgmental one, which is why so many people have so many secrets. This makes it hard to come out of the closet as being LGBT, because it is not a welcoming place. I was confused then why the quarterback who is so esteemed was a black character? Again, nothing wrong with having a black character. YA needs more of them. But when it's being drummed into the plot how small-minded the town is, this part doesn't seem to fit well. Maybe I'm just reading too much into things. It wouldn't be the first time.
I also wasn't happy with the ending, for a few reasons. I'll refrain from spoilers. Plot wise, I feel that it was kind of a cop out. The end chapters felt super rushed and I knew where it was going, and I didn't want it to go there. And when it ended it just felt like you had been running at an okay pace, sped up, and then hit a wall. It was just over. I'm not a fan of that at all. I also feel like the writing was a bit insensitive. I've lost friends to suicides and murders, and I promise you, I would never describe the loss of a beautiful human life as being able to see "brain" everywhere. It's crude, it's crass, and it's ultimately juvenile. It turned me off for sure, especially when mixed with this anger-inducing ending.
Unrelated to the content of the book, I absolutely love the cover. I think it sums up the plot well, and really makes a rather stunning point. I honestly forgot the title of this book at one point, but I remembered "the one with the broken chalk". It's a cover to be remembered.
I'm not sorry I read this, and I'll likely even read it again in the future. Like I said, there's high points and low points. It sucks you in and makes you confront life in a way that can be hard to swallow. There's some issues in it, but I would still recommend giving it a read. If you are a young adult reader who likes intense, emotionally driven books then this book might be for you.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions. Thank you.