Monday, January 11, 2016

REVIEW: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

10:00 a.m.

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.

10:02 a.m.

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.

Hardcover, 292 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Netgalley
Purchase a copy: Goodreads | Amazon


Shel: I have so many things to say that I can feel my brain tripping over itself to try to get it all out in a way that isn't just a rambling's totally going to be a rambling ramble. 

Shel: I don't really know where to start so I'm going to just say stuff, okay? Okay. Court: Okay. 

Shel: First of all, I loved the diversity of the characters. Nijkamp created a 'cast' that looked a lot like the high school I work in. I work in a smallish town, a suburb of New Orleans, and it was so gratifying to see characters of color, who weren't all heterosexual, who had varied interests, and one who lived with Lupus--all of my students need to read books that reflect the world we live in and this book most definitely nailed it when it came to including realistic characters. Court: I was very, very, very impressed with the effortless of the diversity in this story. I feel like the gay best friend usually takes the cake of predictability in stories, but this book really did take each person and even in all of the chaos that was the main plot line...we were able to feel each person's struggles whether it be to please their family, regrets over friendship, being okay with their own sexuality...and even just being okay with themselves. I am impressed with this book not for how harrowing the story is, and how much it made my heart pound...but in how each character's voice shouted at me even when their part was not more than a page. 

Shel: I also loved how real it felt--the fear, denial, guilt, remorse, sadness and hope? Yeah, I can totally see all of those things flying over the faces of students considering the situation they found themselves in. Having lived through a few bomb threats on our campus, lock down drills, and an 'active shooter' practice, I cannot accurately describe the fear that I feel every time one of these things happens. I work with a lot of volatile personalities at my high school and as I read I imagined what it would feel and look like at my school and it was terrifying how accurate I think many parts of this felt. Court: It was scary. It was so realistic. And even in the face of someone saying it was "too realistic" for fiction...this happens too often in our time today, and I am a firm believer that we need stuff like this in our lives so that young people can read it and feel it and know how to cope with feelings they don't understand. Again, this goes with any of the themes that we encounter in the book, but as I grow up I wish that I had read more diverse books and even had more emotional stuff available to me so I could know how to handle all of my feelings better. Marieke nailed it. Absolutely nailed it and I shed a tear on the final page for how beautifully depicted this story is.

Shel: Just reading the synopsis, one can see that this isn't going to end well and yet I kept holding out hope that somehow every single person would survive, probably because I once again put myself in the shoes of the characters there, the parents of the characters, the teachers and their loved ones and I couldn't help but hope that they'd all be okay. Unfortunately no miraculous deus ex machina here...but I think I actually appreciated that Nijkamp didn't try to pretty it up; I'd have left happier but incredulous, I think. Court: I think that we had to have unfortunate fatalities in this book. AS we got to know our characters...I was so sad to lose a single one...Words cannot describe it, but each person left their mark on the page, and it was beautiful. 

Shel: After reading this, I jumped on Goodreads because I couldn't wait to see the enthusiasm I knew I'd find there, and I did. But I found a few naysayers as well. And while there were a few points I agreed with--some times the characters back stories and motives weren't as fleshed out as I'd like, I am still mixed on the inclusion of the social media stuff, and I almost wish I could've seen a little more into the future of these characters at the end--I was actually pretty surprised at how disappointed I was in how dismissive some people were. As someone who works in a high school, as a teacher, I can say that there were many parts that felt emotional and real to me. Maybe my experience isn't everyone's and maybe some have been out of the high school environment for a while and haven't lived in the current environment? I don't know. I know there were some things that probably don't ring true here, but overall I thought this really captured some aspects accurately. Court: Some story lines were definitely left for us to read between the lines, but in some ways I think that the nay saying would've been how many bad things happening to us can be included in one I was appreciative that some things were left to our imagination...but I am altogether very pleased with how much I enjoyed it even though it was such heavy material. It is so, so, so heavy but Marieke Nijkamp made me believe in her story. She made me believe in her characters will to survive, and definitely can make you think how certain losses affect us and brave faces aren't all they seem. I am happy to have read this book, and been introduced to this author because her writing is profound and I think we need to see more of her around here! 

Shel: I will be recommending this to all of my students this week at school and for those of you who'd like to try something maybe you normally wouldn't, I definitely recommend this one. Court: This book should not be missed, and don't be afraid of it like I was! 

Happy reading.

About the Author

Marieke is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, and diversity advocate. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, and wants to grow up to be a time traveler.

In the midnight hours of the day, Marieke writes stories full of hope and heartbreak. Her debut YA novel THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS will be out from Sourcebooks Fire in 2016.

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