Happy Thursday, guys!
Today, we're reviewing This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. I've known Marieke for a few years now, so it's amazing watching the kudos that she's been receiving for this book!
And man, what a book. This a book that will challenge you and break your heart, but that's especially why it needs to be read.
Published January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Format read: ARC via publisher
10:00 am: The principal of Opportunity High School in Alabama finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
10:02 am: The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
10:03 am: The auditorium doors won't open.
10:05 am: Someone starts shooting.
This explosive, emotional, page-turning debut about a high school held hostage is told from the perspective of four teens—each with their own reason to fear the boy with the gun.
(Side note: If you haven't read Alex's book, DO.)
It was there I met Marieke for the first time, and we chatted about writing, books, and our general love of YA. Since then, we've kept in touch primarily by Twitter, and I've been delighted and ridiculously verklempt, seeing how Marieke has grown over the years, championing books, diversity in YA and more.
But as a result of all this, I was VERY nervous reading This is Where it Ends. I had every faith in Marieke's writing, but I think anyone with a writer friend understands that moment of trepidation, where you worry that you're not going to like that person's book.
Well. I shouldn't have worried, because I did like This is Where it Ends, even if I have Marieke to blame for the fact I started tearing up on a train.
Marieke brings readers to Alabama in the book, as she begins to dissect the anatomy of a school shooting. The story is told through multiple perspectives, and we see in stark and horrifying detail, as they find themselves caught up in the midst of a school shooting, and how they're all connected in surprising and unthinkable ways to the shooter.
While I'm going to refrain from discussing individual storylines for fear of spoilers, Marieke is especially adept at discerning the emotional pulse of each individual, finding the exact pressure point that results in them being put in the literal line of fire. Though some of those pulses are thready and light, while others strike at the absolute heart of the matter, the end result is the same: Marieke forces readers to consider again and again, how small interactions and daily moments, can eventually culminate into such a horrific end result.
Though there are many things to appreciate about Marieke's writing - particularly the pacing and just how tightly interwoven her storylines are - I was impressed at Marieke's innate understanding of how tragedies like school shootings reverberate on a larger whole for the rest of society at large. There's emphasis in seeing the shooting unfold on social media, and it's heartbreaking as we see how social media both helps victims, but also adds to the emotional loss of the event.
All in all, as someone who was a student during Columbine and Virginia Tech, Marieke's book is tragic, smart and will forever be timely. This is a book that will likely hit very close to home for the youth of today, but that's all the more reason why it should be read and discussed.
I'm of the opinion that this should be required reading in middle grade/freshman sociology classes; Marieke Nijkamp may very well challenge young students to begin to address a problem that is seen both in fiction and in real life.