Review: This Is Where It Ends

Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Year: 2016
Ages: 13+


This Is Where It Ends is the account of a 54 minutes mass shooting at Opportunity High in Opportunity, Alabama. The disturbing story is told in first person from the perspective of four main characters. Each character has a problematic relationship to with the mass shooting's perpetrator, Tyler.

Claire, a Junior ROTC cadet, is outside the school when the mass shooting starts. Claire and Chris, her best friend, try to help when they notice what is really going on. She is worried sick about her brother, Matt, who is inside the auditorium. In addition, she used to be Tyler's girlfriend. Her perspective, like that of all the main characters, is filled with hindsight moments which might have indicated that something was wrong with Tyler. 

Tomás is inside an administrative office looking for files with his partner in mischief, Fareed. Tomás and Fareed are known in school for getting in trouble a lot. This time, however, they put into action a courageous plan to save the students trapped inside the auditorium with Tyler. Tomas' sister, Sylvia, is one of the students trapped, and he intends to do everything he can to save her. 

Sylvia is Tomás' sister and Autumn's girlfriend. She is one of the students trapped inside the auditorium. She tries to keep her girlfriend safe. Meanwhile, she remembers how dangerous Tyler has being in the past. Tyler didn’t approve of her relationship with Autumn. Readers learn that he did something terrible to her. 

Autumn is Tyler's sister. They have had a contentious and unhealthy relationship. Autumn dreams of becoming a professional ballerina, but her father, an alcoholic abuser is against it. Readers learn with Autumn's hindsight that Tyler was becoming more and more like their father.    


***Spoilers ahead*** 

This Is Where It Ends was one of the most talked about young adult novels of 2016, and for good reasons. It discusses the problem of mass shootings in the United States, which has become an epidemic. American citizens need to talk openly more about this issue in order to find solutions. The novel, fortunately, opens the path of this much-needed open discussion. In addition, the book brings up the subject among young readers which might conscientize younger generations. 

Two of the main characters, Tomás and Sylvia, are Latinos. Furthermore, Sylvia is an openly lesbian Latina. A secondary and crucial character, Fareed is an Afghan boy who knows what is war. I found it refreshing for the author to present diversity in the characters because the United States is in reality a melting pot. 

That being said, I have a few issues with the novel. I think that the main characters were a bit one-dimensional. The victims are all good and almost perfect while the shooter is pure evil. Of course, his actions are pure evil, but I think that his mental problems should have been discussed more. We know that he has an abusive alcoholic father, his mother died, and he is jealous of his sister's dreams. I was left wondering which was his turning point? Why nobody noticed? Why nobody say anything?

For example, let's see how Sylvia's character is one-dimensional. Note how she is an openly Latina lesbian whose family had no problem whatsoever with her coming out. This is great, but the character would have been more close to reality if her family would have at least a degree of hesitation with her coming out. It is a fact that Latino families are conservative on that regard. As a Latina, I have witnessed how friends of mine have had trouble with coming out because of the beliefs of their parents and communities. 

We learn close to the end of the novel that Tyler raped Sylvia. Why she didn’t say anything?
She didn’t say anything because of shame and stigma? That subject should have been developed more. 

Another element of the novel that didn’t agree with me were the social media interventions throughout the story. The tweets and blog spots were distracting and confusing. I understand that the author wanted to portray the media's role in real time situations like this. Social media clearly has changed how news spread and is interpreted. However, the quantity was unnecessary.

In brief, This Is Where It Ends is a good novel to open the discussion of gun violence in the United States. The characters, however, could have been less one-dimensional. The stigma against mental health problems and rape also could have been developed more in the story. 

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