School shootings have become an unfortunately more common occurrence. Marieke Nijkamp took on the challenge of trying to show how this experience feels in first-person perspective in her latest novel, “This is Where it Ends.”
Using four perspectives, she chose students who were all connected to the killer in some way, however, they all sound like the same person. The characters are supposed to be different, one Spanish girl Sylvia, her twin brother Tomas; her girlfriend, Autumn, who is the shooter’s sibling; and another girl, Claire, who runs track. But all the voices in each section sound very much like the others. There is visible diversity in the book, yet not in the writing style or voices of the characters themselves.
Some of the characters did not seem to be like high school students either, which is what they were supposed to be. Claire’s description of the parents waiting behind the police line was “an Impressionist rendering of despair,” which doesn’t seem like something a high school student would say.
The shooter’s character is also not complex. Tyler was not as dynamic as he could be and his motive was a little flawed. His mother died and he isolated himself, saying no one cared about him, and his father was abusive. But the community did try to reach out. He did care for his sister and then suddenly turned, and even tried to rape his sister’s girlfriend. Nothing much else was said about his problems or motives.
A shooter could be anyone. And Tyler seemed like he could be anyone. He had a girlfriend, cared about his sister, was even bullied in school. He appeared to be a normal kid. With the mostly unknown abuse coming from his father stemming from the death of his mother, his motive appears to just be loneliness. It could be argued no one really knew what was going through Tyler’s head since he never confided in anyone, but the point is he had very little going on in his life.
Some scenes were a little unrealistic as well. The shooting took place during morning announcements in the school auditorium. At one point, Autumn tried to distract Tyler onstage by dancing. Tyler made her dance because it’s the one thing she cared about the most. So as he is watching her, students begin leaving the auditorium through the doors Tomas and Fareed opened.
It seems unlikely Tyler wouldn’t have heard the scuffling of people moving or whispers of students as they made their way out the doors. Auditorium doors are normally heavy, and no matter how quiet a mass of people try to be, movement can still be heard.
Of course, what would this story be without a love story? Claire used to date Tyler and wrestled with the idea of him being who she thought he wasn’t. However, she goes through the day with her best friend Chris, who she realizes has been there for her all along. It’s a typical, shortly described interaction between both of them.
The story had the potential to be so good. One line, “Together we could be so strong, but the gun has made us individuals,” made me step back and think wow, this is probably going to get better. It didn’t.
Not going to lie, once the event was over and everyone was being released from the school, was the part that hurt the most. The mood of the shooting was tense, even if it seemed far-fetched at some points. Afterwards, everything just sunk. I didn’t expect the aftermath to be more painful than the actual shooting. Reading about the reunions of those left and the expectations of those who were lost to come back just drove a knife into my heart. I knew they weren’t coming out of the auditorium, but their family and friends waited. Hoping.
Better writing and some development could have made this a great story. The mood and tone was there. If the characters had better voices, and if the events were maybe more realistic, this story would have hurt from start to finish. They way it was meant to.
**The image of the cover was taken from the Goodreads website. I did not take this picture.**