Book three of the year came to me a couple of times before I picked it up to read. First, it was recommended on google books, an app I sometimes use to read on my phone. The description there was not enticing. Then wandering through Target the cover jumped out to me and I read the back synopsis. I was interested this time. When I looked it up on my phone it had gone on sale, that sealed the deal.
This is Where it Ends is the story of a fictional school shooting. My first mixed feeling about the book originates from that point. I have not lived through the traumatic experience depicted. Therefore, due to the sensitive topic, I wonder if it is insensitive. I worry that true victims would feel it was tasteless. The story does, however, give all the power to the victims by never showing the shooters perspective.
The book is told from four perspectives, unlike most formats that switch person each chapter, this story does it every few paragraphs. I believe this new format is the most impressive thing about the book. The whole novel takes place over the span of fifty-four minutes, each chapter only being a few minutes long. At the beginning of each chapter is a time stamp, for example, 10:00 am- 10:02 am. I like the use of this format because it highlights the racing thoughts each person would have during a scary situation. It gives each character the opportunity to think out their reactions and choices while also showcasing some of the history that got a small town in the middle of nowhere into a terrible situation.
The story incorporates many tragedies that young people may face. My main complaint being that the novel tries to take on too much. Each of the four characters has multiple “bad” things happening in their lives. There are too many narratives the author wants to follow resulting in, the reader never getting a full and intimate look at each character. There is also so much going on that the plot never takes a minute to really explain what is motivating the shooter. He is portrayed only as evil/bad. This causes some friction with his sister’s character wanting to save him, sure he’s her brother but is that redeeming enough for someone who has not displayed and morality? The shooters character is very one dimensional and once you see the center of the story fall apart it is hard to come back from.
On the reverse of that opinion is the reality the novel reflects. Everyone has something they are going through, and many people cannot talk about what’s going on in their heads. I do wish the author would have added a plot point to encourage teenagers to talk about mental illness, trauma, grieving, etc. The author took on a huge task to weave each character’s life into the next creating a somewhat realistic story but at a certain point, it also becomes too much. The novel shows how every tragedy has a reaction that moves through a community creating more reactions and weaving everyone together.
Lastly, I did not like the ending. It was dissatisfying and I had problems with the plot choices. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so vaguely, there was a death that I disagreed with. It did not move the plot along, the reasoning was flawed, the reaction was the least realistic thing about the whole book, and it did not need to happen.
Overall, if you want a quick read, it’s a fine book. Despite the problems I personally had with the novel, I did enjoy the read. I like that the author took on such a large task and really gave it a try. I think it would be a large task for anyone but perhaps a necessary conversation starter. Perhaps it will spur more people to talk about problems plaguing young people and create discussions on how to better help. Here’s to hoping for the best.