Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Review: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Set across fifty-four minutes This is Where it Ends tells the story of a school shooting, and it's impact on four students, all of whom are connected in some way with the lone gunman. Clare, Thomas, Sylvia and Autumn all have a reason to fear Tyson. Clare is his ex-girlfriend, Thomas wants to protect his twin sister Sylv from Tyson (there is a history of sexual assault,) and Autumn is the girlfriend of Sylv and the younger sister of Tyson.

And today, Tyson has walked inside Opportunity High with a gun. He wants to punish the kids who ostracised him, and he wants to punish our four main characters by forcing them to watch.

This story is made all the more horrific by the reality of just how common school shootings have become. It gives a very human side to the story--different to the headlines that we might see or hear about. The most tragic part of the story of all is that Tyson does it because he wants notoriety. He wants those who were close to him to suffer, and he wants to be remembered. 

The characters themselves are pleasingly diverse. This book isn't the domain of straight, middle class white kids who desire traditional careers. Clare, for example, is resentful that her older sister is regarded as braver than her because she has joined the military; while one of the heros of the day is Fareed, a refugee who keeps a cool head in all of the chaos, allowing him to come up with solutions that keep some of the other kids safe. Autumn and Sylv are dating one another and come from different cultural backgrounds. Given that the book is set over the course of fifty-four minutes and the subject matter, the author didn't have an easy job of establishing the characters or their personalities, so it would be easy to complain that the characters aren't really as fleshed out as they could be. However, it's also fair to say that we really only get a very tiny glimpse into their lives and into a gruelling fifty-four minutes during which they were focusing on survival. There are surprising examples of bravery and innovation, demonstrating just how clever teens have the potential to be.

Enjoyable, though morbid. Recommended.