Title: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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.
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.
Marieke Nijkamp’s debut novel, This Is Where It Ends, is a heartrending and riveting young adult novel. Spanning a mere 54 minutes and written from four different perspectives, this powerful story is a disturbing and realistic account of an all too familiar tragedy when a lone gunman opens fire during a school assembly.
It is an ordinary day for students in Opportunity, AL. The principal has just completed her back to school speech and released the teenagers to return to class. Slowly, but surely, everyone becomes aware that something is amiss and they make a startling discovery: the auditorium doors are locked, trapping them inside. Before they can process this information, a lone gunman opens fire, killing the principal along with several teachers and students. For the next 54 minutes, fear and panic reign as he holds them hostage and continues his murderous rampage.
One of the few students excused from the assembly, Claire Morgan is stunned when she and her friend Chris realize they have stumbled on the identity of the shooter: her ex-boyfriend. Unable to believe he is capable of such a horrific act, she tries to make sense of what is happening to her fellow students. Shock and disbelief quickly turn to panic when she realizes her brother Matt is in the auditorium. Holding out hope her ex will spare his life, Claire anxiously remains outside the school awaiting word of Matt’s fate.
Tomás Morales and his friend Fareed are breaking into the principal’s office when they hear gunfire and they immediately call 911. When they attempt to leave school, they discover the school’s exits have been chained and padlocked. With Fareed working to open the doors, Tomás is determined to rescue his twin sister, Sylv, from the auditorium. Together, the boys heroically work together to save the faculty and their fellow students.
Autumn is horrified by the gunman’s identity and she frantically tries to figure out how she missed seeing his instability. Flashbacks reveal the signs she overlooked but even with hindsight, she still cannot understand what drove him to such a violent act. While she distracts him, many of the students and teachers are able to escape but will Autumn emerge from the incident unscathed?
The main focus of Tyler’s attention is Sylv Morales and she knows all too well how capable he is of violence. Following an altercation with her at prom the previous year, the shooter dropped out of school but his obsession with her remained unchanged. During the siege at the school, Sylv has remained out of his sight, and as the students and faculty make their escape, Tomás and Fareed desperately try to get her to safety but how long will they be able remain out of the gunman’s reach?
In This Is Where It Ends, Marieke Nijkamp easily manages to convey the terror and panic as the events unfold. The reasons for the shooter’s actions remain just out of reach but some of the information about his past reveals possible motives for his rampage. He veers between eerily calm and manic as he terrorizes the students and faculty while he carries out his murderous plan. Just as in real life, hindsight from the key players paints a terrifying portrait of a troubled young man who, for unknown reasons, commits an unfathomable act of violence that will leave forever change their lives. An incredibly well-written yet heartbreaking novel that I highly recommend to readers of all ages.