Book Review 2: This Is Where It Ends

Saturday, March 26, 2016

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

3.5/5 stars 

To say I have mixed feelings about this book would be an understatement.  At times I feel like I'm being too harsh; at others I feel too kind in my rating.  So, I suppose I'll stick with this 3.5/5 rating.

This book examines an emotional and highly relevant topic--school shootings.  It is told from the alternating perspective of four different interrelated characters, all of whom have some connection to each other and the shooter.  At times this book was beautiful and heartbreaking and I could see why some people liked it so much.  However, I also had several issues with it that kept me from fully enjoying the story.

First, I didn't think enough importance was placed on the victims.  Really, in these circumstances of extreme and devastating violence, what's important in the end is to remember and honor the victims.  In this book, each time someone was killed, the plot jumped almost immediately to something new.  Very rarely did the author focus on these victims--who they were, who they loved, who loved them.  There was only additional attention paid to a victim when they were more closely linked to one of the narrators.

I also, for the most part, didn't find myself believing the emotional and physical reactions that many of the characters were having to the events.  It all felt a little forced.  I don't truly believe that if a crowded auditorium was suddenly barricaded in and a student entered and starting shooting people, that everyone would remain calm, and few people would be yelling or panicking.  For the most part the characters seemed too relaxed, silent or anxiety-free in this situation.  Or at the very least, there should have been more attention paid to these types of reactions on the part of the author.  What I felt myself craving the whole time was for someone to react the way I would, or at least in a more realistic way.  And for the most part, I didn't see a lot of emotion or understandable reactions (with a couple of exceptions).

What I can definitely say is that this book had good intentions.  It was clearly written to depict a terrible problem that is becoming more and more common in our country.  However, I don't think Nijkamp went far enough or deep enough to make it as good a book as it could have been.  This book, in concept alone is one that could have, and probably should have made me cry.  However, the fact that it didn't is why I struggle to label it as emotionally poignant and heartbreaking enough.

Recommended for people who read for straight action or plot, and less for characters, realism or deep emotional impact.

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