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.
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.
This is Where It Ends came to my attention via some friends on Tumblr, who were all raving about how amazing the book was. Because of this, I went into it with some pretty high expectations, although I fully believed my reading experience would be different than there, simply because I’m a teacher and this is something I’ve thought about because school shootings have become more and more rampant here in the US. Unfortunately for me, this book did not achieve the amazingness that others claimed it had for them. While I definitely feel like this is a book that needed to be written, I feel like it failed in its telling, at least for me personally. I will try to tell you why below, although be aware that – even almost two weeks after reading this – my thoughts are still quite jumbled and hard to sort out coherently.
First of all, this book is told through multiple viewpoints. The shooter feels like each of these characters has done something to him personally, and – I hate to say this – but I can sort of see where he’s coming from. He is clearly suffering from some type of mental illness, and has had little to no support from anyone after the death of his mother. I am NOT saying that anyone deserved what happened to them – there is never a reason to go into a school and open fire on students, most of which quite obviously hadn’t done anything – but there were clear indicators that he wasn’t okay, and, as a teacher, that’s the part that really hit me the hardest. However, I feel like it was precisely because the book is told through these characters’ viewpoints that the book didn’t work for me. I think it would have been a much more powerful read if we could have heard from some of the kids who didn’t know the shooter, and didn’t know what he’d been going through. I dunno. That part of the book just fell flat for me.
There are also timestamps in this book, which are supposed to help with the urgency of the situation, and help the reader stay engaged. And I do want to say that, while I didn’t love this book, it was a quick read, and I was definitely interested in seeing how things would turn out. But there wasn’t the “must keep reading” feeling from this book for me, either. I saw someone else say that this was a case of an author with a great idea who struggled to bring it to fruition, and I kind of agree. I think all of the elements were there, but I just wasn’t connected to any of the characters, which didn’t help with my overall feelings.
All in all, I think this book is worth a read. I also want to say that several people did love it – it totally worked for them – and I am kind of the odd bird. But overall I think the focus of this book was on the wrong characters, and the action and suspense weren’t as gripping as it should – and could – have been. However, feel free to take all of this with a grain of salt! If you’re curious at all, I’d recommend you give it a read just so you can see how you feel for yourself.
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.